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Editorial: End of an era for Little Red

FILE PHOTO
The Little Red Schoolhouse on the Amherst College Campus opened in 1937.

FILE PHOTO The Little Red Schoolhouse on the Amherst College Campus opened in 1937. Purchase photo reprints »

As the final bell rang at a preschool on the Amherst College campus May 16, school staff and parents expressed dismay that the program was headed for a hiatus. Given the popularity of the 75-year-old school and the high praise it won from generations of parents, that’s too bad.

It may be back in another location, or maybe not if supporters can’t find one. Officials and supporters of the Amherst Day School, which operates as The Little Red Schoolhouse, had 18 months to find a new location, and sadly, they have not.

Though many are angry that Amherst College evicted the program from a campus building donated for it in 1937, we don’t think the school can be faulted for its decision. The historic building is in an area soon to be affected by noise, dust and traffic generated by the construction of a new science building. Even though the exact location of that construction is in limbo as the college wrestles with changes in plans, it will still be close enough to the school building to cause concern.

And the college doesn’t seem to be thinking about fitting the preschoolers back into the space once the project is completed in 2018. That’s its prerogative.

For decades, Amherst Day School has benefitted from generous support from the college, which has used a $400,000 endowment to hand over $20,000 annually to the school in addition to maintenance on the building. Given that, it is easy to see why it has been difficult for Little Red supporters to come up with an alternative and why it’s hard for them to accept the college’s action.

While about half of the 18 children who departed last week will go on to kindergarten, the parents of the other children must shop among other fine preschools in the area for September, though they are fiercely devoted to the program they must leave.

One such parent is Carole Learned-Miller of Amherst, who said the quality of the teachers and interest in the children at the Little Red Schoolhouse has been exceptional. “We’re looking for another Little Red, and there isn’t one,” she said. Another, Jennifer Reese of Hadley, described a robust curriculum with skilled educators. Suenita Berube of Amherst calls it “an amazing program” with nurturing teachers. In light of those superlatives, it would be a shame to see the curriculum they have built end. We hope the supporters of this program can find a way to get it going again. We suspect they will.

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