A Guest Post from Elana Kehoe (originally written for the Islesboro Island News)
On a beautiful sunny day in August, the new and permanent home of Islesboro Preschool officially opened. The weather complimented everyone walking around, with big smiling happy faces.
Board members, community, alumni, students, and future attendees came for food supplied by Sea Smoke BBQ, tours of the new building, face painting and bouncy castles, and the official ribbon cutting (ribbon dropping, as no one could find a pair of scissors) and speech ceremony.
The new lovely red schoolhouse consists of the main room for the preschool, the infant/toddler room with an attached nap room with cribs, kitchen, offices, and a utility room with a washer and dryer, something always necessary when kids are around! The bathroom is equipped with height appropriate facilities, keeping in mind what the target audience is. There are many small touches, like cozy chairs for feeding the infants, donated Dr Seuss artwork on the walls, and the baby bottle refrigerator, that make this building even more comfortable.
Colleen Macguire, the infant/toddler instructor, is thrilled. “To be able to use my training to benefit the development of these kids, which ends up helping the town, I’m so happy.” At least 4 children at the time were going to be in the i/t room, with 2 registered at the grand opening. “It’s a great way for kids to model their social behavior. Being around the other children is so important.” The building is licensed for 20 children, plus staff, leaving room for the school to grow even after this year’s baby boom.
Julie Reidy, who has worked for years with the preschool and the school, is excited about the new beginning. “From the day Bruce came and talk to us [about the preschool space], we didn’t think it was possible. We’re so lucky the community can come together to do this.”
Guiding tours around the building, Bruce Claflin, the driving force behind the construction and head of the Board of Directors, was positively glowing. “It’s pretty fabulous! Did you see the milk fridge?” His excitement was infectious, with small groups of people murmuring happily.
Wyatt Bailey, a current preschool student, is excited that he and his classmates can go outside more, with the attached playground and not having to walk through a parking lot. He also likes the bathroom, where the sinks are low and it’s easy to wash his hands. His mother, Jen, says that she can’t believe the building is already done and they are ready to open.
Town Manager Janet Anderson puts it succinctly: “I can’t wait.”
Many alumni of the preschool, in all its locations, attended the opening. Angela Bacon was going through the boxes of loose pictures of students, showing occasional ones to Marie Hall. Photos are on the walls of classes from years before, along with a roll of all students who have attended the preschool.
Natasha Fredette is not only is an assistant at the preschool but also a client: she is due to give birth to a daughter in November. “I’m so excited about the preschool building. We were so concerned about what we would do after I had her, and trying to figure out how to make it work. This solves both my problems!” Natasha will be floating between the preschool class and the infant/toddler room as part of her job.
At the opening ceremony, Nancy Wuori, director of IPS, was typically modest, giving credit to the town, the community, and everyone who has had a hand in growing the school. “We are here to support a community effort. Through the years, people have given their time, creative and professional talents to achieve a goal, to support Islesboro’s young families…over the years, this has happened at the library, the Blue Heron, the community center of old, and the town office building.” She noted that with the new building, “we are not just supporting our young families today, or those who come here, but we have made a statement to those growing here that we want them to stay and be another generation of Islesboro’s future.” She also thanked Kerry Claflin, who took on the large role of project manager for the new building.
Bruce, when speaking at the ribbon ceremony, was so pleased how the town and selectmen came together, seeing what an important role the preschool plays in a child’s life. “This gives children such a great start in life.” Child care is important in other ways too. “Child care should not affect a family’s income.”
As well as helping the children in their growth, IPS has 4 employees, all who live on the island. “A building is a building, but Nancy filled it with fantastic people,” said Bruce. Hanna Kerr has taken over the running of the preschool, with Colleen, Natasha, and Ginny Drew all working together day to day. Over the years, the staff has included many members of the community, including Sara Babbidge, Karen Betts, Robynann Congdon, Betha Howell, Cami Richards, , Beth Shea, Ann Thompson and Shelly Wilbur, plus the numerous other parents over the years who spent time in the classroom.
Bruce was also thankful for the families who contributed not only their money, but materials and their time. Larry Wonson as general contractor put a huge amount of effort into translating blueprints to the finished structure, with great success!
As Bruce said on the day “This has been more like a journey than a completion. This feels fabulous!”