Sunnyside Child Care center finds new home in Northampton
NORTHAMPTON — A former “doggie day care” is getting upgraded to provide a learning environment for a whole new species.
Sunnyside Child Care center is breaking ground next week for its new, permanent location at 557 Easthampton Road, the home of the former Dances With Dogs pet care center.
Campus expansion plans at Smith College, Sunnyside’s current location, required the demolition of the school building at the end of Paradise Road, according to Sarah Buttenwieser, a parent of one former and one current Sunnyside student.
Buttenwieser said the school’s board of directors, supporters and parents had been steadily looking for a new home for the school since being told of Smith College’s plans about three years ago.
Sunnyside’s director, Susan Beemer, said the new building is “absolutely a good fit for the school.”
Buttenwieser said having been both a pet care center and the former Hampshire Manor nursing home means the building has been well-maintained and is up to building and safety code requirements.
Beemer said she looked at “quite a few” buildings over the last three years, noting the difficulties involved in finding an appropriate new space.
Beemer said part of the challenge was to find a building that had enough indoor and outdoor space, enough parking, was accessible to children and was relatively new and wasn’t in need of major renovations.
The new building will be able to accommodate two more classrooms than the old building, providing space for up to 30 more students, Buttenwieser said.
Buttenwieser said approximately 80 to 100 families are on a waiting list for the school.
Sunnyside had 49 students enrolled this past year, Beemer said.
“Increasing demand for a Sunnyside education drove us to dig deeper roots and expand,” Beemer said.
The additional classrooms and students will also mean hiring four new full-time teachers, Beemer said.
In addition to the indoor amenities, Buttenwieser said the new school will have about six acres of land that can be used to develop outdoor programs for the students, providing a chance to, “explore the wilderness on our own terms.”
According to the school, Smith College donated $150,000 to assist with the purchase of the new building.
Beemer said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss the purchase price of the property.
Sunnyside opened in 1977 and has provided preschool educations to about 700 students since then, according to a statement.
Buttenwieser said as September approaches, students who were already enrolled last year may be given opportunities to visit the new building before it officially opens to ease the transition.
The groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday, May 31, at 9 a.m. at 557 Easthampton Road. State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and other officials are expected to attend, according to a statement from Sunnyside.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.