It Takes a Neighborhood: Daycare Co-op Opens its Doors

Youngsters at the Harbor City School on Putnam Street enjoy their first day of pre-school.

A new daycare that has been much anticipated by local parents opened in East Boston on Monday and will bring a whole new philosophy to caring and educating preschoolers in the neighborhood.

Harbor City School (HCS) is the brainchild of a few local moms that began meeting every Friday at a 303 Cafe-sponsored ‘Mommy and Me’ breakfast hour. The cafe’s program was designed to get local moms together and trade parenting tips and advise.

From there, the group of moms began a baby-sitting co-op where each mom in the group would take a turn watching the other mom’s children.

“There were about 13 to 14 parents in the baby sitting club and from there we started to talk about expanding into a full fledged preschool for East Boston,” said Liz Nofziger, an Eastie parent and one of HCS founders and board members. “While it’s a big task to become a non-profit I think we have selected a board that has a wide range of experience in non-profits, fundraising and early childhood education.”

The school had its official first full day at its 196 Putnam St. location and director Carissa Hanagriff and co-teacher Peter Bowman couldn’t be more pleased.

“We spent the day exploring the Bremen Street Park which is right across the street, playing, and having an all around good time,” said Hanagriff. “After the first day I sat on the front steps and cried because our vision for this school finally came to fruition”.

The founders of the school spent the summer doing some permitting work, building inspections and improvement projects. The school was also able to secure a plot in the community garden inside the Bremen Street Park so kids will be able to plant vegetables and eat those vegetables at snack time.

HCS will be run as is a non-profit independent preschool and aims to provide a year-round nurturing and stimulating environment for up to twenty children at a time, aged 2.9 to five years old.

According to the board, while traditional preschools are only half day, HCS also offers a full day option in order to suit the needs of full-time working families in the community. For families who wish to actively participate in their child’s preschool experience HCS will also offer a co-op model school, with responsibilities for families both in and out of the classroom.

Hanagriff said she has been excited by the enthusiasm and commitment of the parents and board involved with launching HCS.

“The parents involved are taking an active role in providing the type of quality education they want for their children,” said Hanagriff, who has a Masters of Elementary Education from UMass Boston and worked at Bright Horizons in the Back Bay before coming to HCS. “One of the most important things is that all children are capable of learning and the philosophy of HCS will be to look at how each child can best learn and not just give them the tools of learning.”

Hanagriff said HCS would take ownership and responsibility to find successful ways to educate each child in ways they learn the best at the same time balancing the needs of the entire classroom.

HCS will use an emergent curriculum and follow the developmental model of education, encouraging academic and social growth through exploration, cooperative problem solving, and critical thinking. Hanagriff pointed out that children develop social and educational relationships with supportive adults and that the activities at HCS are age appropriate and with consistent guidance, designed to foster the cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development of all children.

Hanagriff urged any community member interested in helping to shape HCS to contact the school at [email protected].

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