PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Ready Set Learn is expanding after purchasing and renovating the former St. Martin's Episcopal Church on Dalton Avenue.
Owner Melissa Fawcett is moving the business from a residential home on Virginia Avenue to the former church in time for the next school year.
Currently, the renovations are underway, creating three classrooms and play space. The preschool is also fundraising to build a playground outside.
"The biggest thing for us was the indoor play space. We don't have a gym and in the winter you are inside a lot. They are little and they need to play. So we liked that there was a huge area for the kids to play," Fawcett said.
Fawcett and her husband, Ken, started the school four years ago. The former public school teacher was looking for a preschool for their son and ultimately the couple opted to start their own.
"I was a public school teacher for 10 years. At the time we had a 4-year-old son, so we were looking around for preschools and we weren't finding what we liked. A really wanted him to be challenged academically. So we ended up doing our own thing," Fawcett said.
Now there are six teachers working at the school. It had previously taught just 4-year-olds but now is able to offer classes for 3-year-olds as well. The preschool does a full-day program, which most preschools do not have, Fawcett said. They purchased the building from the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts in April.
"We've been open for four years and we've had a wait list every year. Now we have 46 kids enrolled for next year and we still have a little bit more room," Fawcett said.
The renovations are expected to be done in a few weeks. While the church was structurally sound, a significant amount of interior renovations were needed. The couple put in a new heating and cooling system, ducts, lights, and windows, and painted and dropped the ceiling in the former sanctuary area.
Contractors had to excavate about 6 feet of land and cut out a portion of the foundation to put in a required egress from the basement level. Walls were torn down and others were put up to divide the space and new fencing is expected to go up around the outdoor play area.
In total, Fawcett said the cost for the renovation came in around $170,000.
"It is quite extensive," she said.
Marcella Building & Renovation has been working on the site, based on plans crafted by Hill Engineering, for about two months. In July, Ready Set Learn is looking to host an event to show off the renovations. The couple also hopes to have the playground in place in time for the next school year. The commercial structure costs $8,000 and so far through a GoFundMe campaign, Ready Set Learn has raised $2,000.
The building dates back to 1910 and the church hall was added to it in 1963. The church was closed a few years back and has sat vacant since. Fawcett looked to purchase it last year but the timing didn't work out.
"It was a long process. We started a year ago. We didn't have enough time to renovate because we do school year to school year. We open in September. So we took our offer off the table and then this year tried again. We got everything to align correctly," Fawcett said.
The preschool runs concurrently with the traditional school year, starting in September. Fawcett said there are still a few spots available.
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