“When kids are intentionally playing, magic happens,” said Colleen DeVito, the director of Our Savior Nursery School. “The teachers work incredibly hard to make that happen.”
This year the school is celebrating its 50th year in Stanhope. Pastor Doring and his wife, Lois, the first director, started the school in September 1971, under the name Lutheran Church of Our Savior .
“Although we are living in these challenging Covid times,” DeVito said, everyone at the school is happy to re-open and welcome their families back, under the guidelines of the Office of Licensing and the Centers for Disease Control.
DeVito said they wanted their 50th year to be celebratory, so they are focusing not on obstacles but on blessings – their doors are open, they have 35 students, and they haven’t had to close because of Covid cases. Normally, their enrollment is close to 70 children, from two and a half years old to four years old.
At first they were only allowed to have 10 students in a classroom, which was really limiting. Now, they are allowed a maximum of 15 kids in a classroom, broken down into three classes: a pre-kindergarten class, mixed age (preschool/pre-K), and toddlers.
A typical day
On a typical day in the era of Covid, the children wash their hands upon entering the school, multiple times throughout the morning, and prior to leaving. They have their temperatures taken, answer seven Covid-related questions before entering the building, and wear masks, along with the staff, during the entire day. Students may take off their masks for outside play, a minimum of 30 minutes a day.
The school runs blue UV light and foggers in the classroom. Employees are constantly cleaning.
Parents and visitors are not allowed in the building. Class times are staggered to avoid large groups standing outside in line. The three classes are from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m.; 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Following kids’ interests
Still, every day is different, DeVito said. The key to a successful program like theirs is flexibility, she said.
The kids dictate how the day will go. They use Creative Curriculum, a research-based pre-K curriculum. Teachers can expand upon it, depending on how far the kids want to go and following their interests. The curriculum is based on play, with a focus on the social and emotional aspect of development.
DeVito said she is blessed with an amazing staff and low turnover. Their team consists of the director, office manager, three teachers, and three assistants. They are a team, she said. The school works because they work together. And the kids become family. Many have been attending for three to four years, so they get to know everybody.
DeVito said they originally planned an alumni picnic to mark their milestone, and she’s hoping for a big celebration in the spring. In the meantime, faculty and staff are thrilled that they can provide their service to local families during a time of challenges and restrictions.
“When kids are intentionally playing, magic happens. The teachers work incredibly hard to make that happen.” Director Colleen DeVito