Somers Cooperative Preschool Resumes Classes After Fire

After the fire at the Somers Congregational Church, the school was forced to find a new location. Now, it has found a home at the Somers Baptist Church.

When the on Jan. 1, the lost its space.

While the school was not burned, there was significant smoke and water damage and therefore, the school was forced to close temporarily while it looked for a new home. After a lot of brainstorming and searching, the school relocated to the .

The school, which rents space from the church and is not affiliated with it, was closed for four weeks and opened for classes again on Jan. 31.

Board President Julie Rogers said that the school spent a week and a half to two weeks without a location.

“By the time we found this and turned it around, we did it pretty quickly,” she said. “It was pretty amazing.”

Rogers said that she reached out to the pastor of the church and it was arranged that the school would move into the downstairs space at the church.

“They were like, ‘Anyway we can help you’ – which has been so sweet, so wonderful,” she said. “They’ve been so great in letting us do everything we need to do. This has been a Godsend that we’re here, honestly.”

Rogers said that the school had been offered several other shared spaces, but that it would have been very difficult to pack up at the end of each week so that the facility could use their space. She thought it would be the same situation at the Somers Baptist Church, but was told that there was no active Sunday school program and that the school would not have to pack up at the end of each week.

Somers Cooperative Preschool was also offered spaces in other towns, but some of them were deemed too far away for the membership – which is mostly from Somers and Ellington.

Rogers was still grateful for all the offers to help.

“If that’s all we had the choice of, we would have taken it, but we were hoping to find our own space,” she said.

Not only was it a question of where the school could find space and if accommodations could be made, but the space also had to meet all the state standards and requirements set forth for a preschool.

“We have a lot of state standards that you must abide by when you’re a preschool – like lead testing, radon testing, you need a certain amount of square footage per child, and a certain number of bathrooms for the children, and a certain amount of square footage in your play area,” Rogers said. “It was a lot of coming together.”

As it turns out, the space works very well for the school’s needs – everything down to the playground. It was flat and there were a couple of swing sets, so the company brought some of the school’s playground equipment over and added it to the existing stuff. Mulch was brought in and so was a temporary fence for the playground.

“Everybody just pulled together to get it done,” Rogers said. “Everybody just wanted to get school back up and open.”

Several companies, including and UL-STR in Enfield, have donated items to the school, for which it is very grateful.

Rogers said that she has almost 50 families depending on this school to get their kids ready for kindergarten. The school has also been open for over 40 years in this community, adding to the responsibility Rogers felt to find a solution.

“I feel this immense pressure on my shoulders – some of it probably self-inflicted, but I don’t want to let people down,” she said. “It’s been a landmark in this community. (Somers Congregational Church Moderator) Anne Kirkpatrick was saying that she was president of the school 34 years ago. It’s been around longer than a lot of us have been around. I feel a sense of obligation. I don’t want to let this school fail.”

If all goes well, the school should be back in its original – although it will feel like brand new – space at the church. The school runs on a 10-month schedule and will be at the Baptist church through June, but should be able to transition to the previous location over the summer – just in time for the new school year.

“There are just so many unknowns with this,” Rogers said. “We’re at the mercy of a lot of things coming together and stars aligning.”

No matter where the school is located, the education will still be the same. The school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and will continue to be.

“It sets a nice standard of education for kids and for readiness for kindergarten,” Rogers said. “We have a solid program. We have a great space over there and it’s a great space here, but no matter where we are, we have a great program for kids.”

The school always has open enrollment, but will be holding a formal open house on Feb. 16 from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Somers Baptist Church location. This will be an opportunity for parents to learn more about the school and/or register their children for the coming school year.

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