For the first time, Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool students walked through the doors of their brand new facility Feb. 20 on Highway 17.
Parents were greeted by staff as they signed in their children, and then made their way through the main entrance to the indoor playground, a specially designed set of tunnels, slides, crawl spaces and play areas for the school.
Audrey Singleton, owner and operator of the school, also greeted families with giant hugs and a smile. She said seeing the children’s reaction was her favorite part of the morning.
“It has gone so smoothly, and we are so excited to see the children’s faces,” Singleton said. “The parents have been so patient with us and so understanding of the process and the big move.”
Designed by Singleton and built by her husband, Jim, construction for the project broke ground in February 2012. The building features an additional classroom and outdoor playground for each age group, an indoor playground, a new break room for staff, a private kindergarten classroom and an infant room.
The infant room in the new building is designed after a hospital nursery, Audrey Singleton said, and includes light and climate control, a partition with soundproof walls for sleeping babies and more.
She said when designing the building and rooms, she incorporated things she would want if the classrooms had been hers.
“I’ve worked in every single classroom in every age group in my 17 years of doing this, and everything I would want if I were a teacher in the room is what I thought of the whole time I was designing this and setting it up,” she said.
The indoor playground, which adults can access, is a huge plus for when kids can’t get outside to play, Singleton said.
“The indoor playground is so vastly needed … when the weather is not conducive to get outside,” she said. “We want the children to use those gross motor skills.”
Singleton said the move won’t affect the curriculum, which will continue to operate in a consistent manner. The space, however, will bring a positive change.
“The huge difference is space — we have four individual playgrounds for each age group it would serve,” she said. “The asset I see of the whole center is having more utilized common areas for the children’s use.”
Some of those areas include a music room and media room, a lunchroom and breakfast room that can be used as a multipurpose room and individualized conference rooms for parents.
Alisha Bennett’s daughter, Averi, was playing on the indoor playground after arriving at the new school. Alisha Bennett said she was impressed with the building.
“It’s big, but it’s beautiful,” she said. “There is a lot more space and a lot less clutter. And not that the other building wasn’t clean, but there is so much extra space here it feels cleaner.”
She said her daughter was excited and had been talking about going to the new school all week.
“I think she’s a little intimidated right now because of the big play area, but she is a people person so she won’t have a problem (transitioning),” Bennett said.
Laurie Gambrall was dropping off her granddaughter, Layla, and stopped before she left to take in the features of the new building.
“It’s really cool, really nice,” she said. “The kids are going to have fun on the (indoor) playground.”
Gambrall said her granddaughter’s reaction was a simple “Wow,” but noted she was definitely excited. The new facility was “no comparison” to the old building off Ford Avenue.
Ed Montgomery, whose wife works at the school, said the new school was a drastic change from the old building.
“I think it’s wonderful — it is something that has been needed for a while now,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement for parents and children, and I think it’s going to be a success.”
Montgomery, also a friend of Singleton’s, volunteers at the school and helped move some of the furniture and equipment in. Singleton said many others like Montgomery, including the staff’s husbands and student’s parents, volunteered to help move things into the new school, which she was grateful for.
“Everybody has been so supportive; it’s just over the top,” Singleton said. “The camaraderie has been great, and it’s been a total team effort.”
For more information about the Montessori Preschool, go to www.richmondhillmontessoripreschool.com.