FIVE YEAR HIGHLIGHTS
Since being asked to submit an update on the preschool, I have been taking the time to reflect on the life-changing role that God placed me in 5 years ago. There has been much accomplished and many changes were made that affected the preschool in that timeline.
2017 – The Great Flood
The flood in the preschool caused us to find another location to hold school during renovations or face closing for a time. Since the undercroft at the church flooded at the same time, that was not a viable option. Thankfully God provided a community church just down the road that was not using their education wing. We moved there in November and returned home to St. Matthew’s in February 2018. Little did we know that this move would also plant a seed for the preschool. We could have lost some families during the transition but God is so faithful – because we didn’t. In fact, we added to our numbers starting a succession of years of full enrollment.
2018 – Playground Addition #1
The church we used while renovations from the flood were being made had playground equipment unlike ours. Because the children enjoyed theirs so much, the Executive Board decided it was time to replace the older wooden structure, that had been repaired numerous times, in the bigger playground area. Because God provided – through great stewardship and because another year of full enrollment was expected, new playground equipment and layout was prayed about, voted on by the Vestry, purchased by the preschool and installed that Fall.
2019 – Trike-A-Thon
For the first time, we held a Trike-A-Thon raising funds for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. The Trike-A-Thon was as a fun, service-learning program for the children that included a week of learning the importance of bike (scooter/riding toy) safety. It was a great way to teach our children about the power they have to help others, the spirit of giving, and serving other children.
2020 – Covid and WAP/TV installation
The Covid pandemic shut down the preschool in March causing much alarm and a scramble to figure out how we could keep our students and staff currently engaged while favorably effecting the future of the preschool. We quickly moved to digital learning for the remainder of the school year without requiring tuition from our families. Not only did we hold learning Zoom sessions; we added a weekly story/music hour where many of our teachers and students participated. It took all summer to write new Covid policies and have them approved by the Vestry so we could proceed to open later that September. We safely opened to smaller class sizes and fewer staff members with only shutting down one class that year for a week right before the Christmas break.
While the church and preschool were still closed, we purchased new wiring and television mounts to be installed throughout the preschool wing. This wiring was needed to upgrade the WI-FI connection and give the ability to add televisions in each of the classrooms for educational purposes and Sunday school usage.
2021—The “New Normal”
Like all schools around the world, we faced incorporating a “new normal” at the preschool. Which included not allowing parents into the building, continuing mandatory carpool and figuring out how to hold our cherished family events and in-house field trips in a safe way. All while wearing masks and continuing all of the vigorous safety and cleaning protocols. Again, God was faithful as we resumed our usual class sizes to full enrollment and more teachers returned.
We welcomed, for the first time, the Art Auction preschool fundraiser. Held in the Parish Hall with donations given by St. Matthew’s Episcopal parishioners, staff, students, local artists, students’ parents and grandparents. This fundraiser replaced the Silent Auction that was held yearly every Spring. Because the Art Auction was so successful in raising $2,875 for the preschool, we decided to hold it again the following year.
2022 – Playground Addition #2 & Welcomed Changes
I can’t even put into words how much of my faith it took to embrace the idea of adding yet more playground equipment after seeing how the disruption of the pandemic shut down so many preschools and businesses for good. But God! God continued to bless our diligence with our preschool families and faithfulness in continuing to grow the preschool by once again showing us it was time, yet again, to replace the last wooden structure on the smaller playground with new equipment. Hence, new equipment, along with a long-desired rubber pour-in-place, was installed last summer.
During the pandemic, we had to learn how to creatively hold our cherished events in new ways. Holding Graduation in the lovely gardens that the Flower Guild so diligently donates their time and talents to is one of our new favorites. It’s a lovely backdrop for pictures and we don’t have to limit our families. Another new thing we will continue to do is hold our open houses outside in the pavilion avoiding overcrowding in the classroom and allows families more individual time to chat with their child’s teacher.
This was the year of returning to some of our traditional events and embracing new changes teaching us to be so flexible. Having breakfast with Santa returned this year. We hosted a Sweetheart Dance which we haven’t held in many years. We allowed the parents to come into the building again giving them the ability to connect and communicate with teachers in person. We started the year with masks being required and changed to masks not required in January. Again, the Art Auction was a success; even better than the previous year, raising $3,800 for the preschool.
As we begin another school year in just a few weeks, I realize that a change has taken place in me. A change that is teaching me that traditions or “the way we used to do it” may need adjusting or be disposed of and that’s okay. As I change positions in the preschool this Fall to Assistant Director — for family reasons — I am reminded that modifications can be good though sometimes difficult to embrace. It’s been a little hard for me to release the reins from “what we’ve always done” as Dalex Sullivan, takes on the role as Director. As she teaches me new things and makes me more tech savvy, I am trying to remember to be flexible and to see the preschool in a new light while still holding onto the mission of the ministry that embraces our preschool families, the church, and our community. A few things we never want to change is: our staff to share the light of Jesus with our little ones; not only teach academics and socialization but love for one another; and to let our actions be an illustration of the hands and feet of the body of Christ.
For more information on St. Matthew’s Preschool and Kindergarten, click here.