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Parents Endeavor to Save Black Rock Nursery School

A Fairfield resident hopes to petition Black Rock Congregational Church's elders to include Black Rock Nursery School in its reconstruction plans.

will begin construction this summer to demolish its current building and build a .

The new building, which is part of an endeavor known as “The Lighthouse Project” to accommodate an increased numbers of members, ministries, and programs, will include many amenities. The $29 million end result will include additional parking, a media center and café, a 950-seat worship center, a multi-purpose room, and more.

But what the plan doesn’t include is , which has been housed on the church’s Black Rock Turnpike campus since 1969.

“A Loss for the Parents…the Kids…the Teachers”

Whether the decision not to include the preschool in the new building has to do with expense, stringent building codes for new preschools, or another reason . Attempts to reach a church elder or director were not returned to Patch.

Whatever the reason, the school’s closing is “a loss for the parents, it’s a loss for the kids, it’s a loss for the teachers,” parent Jay Desiderio said.

There are 17 teachers at Black Rock Nursery School, including the school’s director. All will be unemployed come June.

Approximately 100-110 children are enrolled during the average school year, according to Laura McCarthy, who has taught at the school for 10 years. Seventy families had registered for the 2012-2013 school year when it was announced the school would be closing.

“We probably would have had a lot more than 70 families,” McCarthy said. “It isn’t a dead school. It was thriving.”

McCarthy said that attempts were made to find a place to house the school elsewhere during construction and then permanently, but nothing materialized. She, the school’s director Ingrid Hansen, and a few other teachers are still looking, but McCarthy does not feel they will get far without support from the church.

“I feel terrible for the parents, I feel terrible for the children, and sad for those who will lose their jobs,” McCarthy said. “It just doesn’t seem like it was done the right way. It was really rough.”

Finding Another Preschool

Parents were notified in February about the school’s impending closing, about a month too late for other area preschools’ registration periods, according to Desiderio and another parent, Annette McCabe.

“If you got in somewhere else, you were lucky,” McCabe said. McCabe’s eldest graduated from Black Rock Nursery School last year, and her younger daughter will finish out her preschool years somewhere else.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine in her new school, but it’s just not the same,” McCabe said.

Desiderio agreed. He had hoped to keep his son -- his second child to go to Black Rock Nursery School  -- at the school until he graduated.

“I know a lot of parents who probably wanted to do the same thing.”

“I’m Just Hoping That There’s a Miracle”

One parent is making the possible loss of the school into an opportunity to save it. Katie Holland, a Fairfield resident whose four children went through Black Rock Nursery School, has started a petition to ask the church elders to reconsider including the nursery school in the new building, and perhaps allow all of the church’s members to vote on the issue.

Holland hopes to collect 200 signatures on the petition, which can be viewed and signed here.

“They [the church elders] might just not be in touch with how important the school is to the community, and how special it is,” Holland said.

“It’s so much more than a school,” she added.  “It’s sort of a bridge. These ladies truly love the families from their hearts.”

McCabe echoed Holland’s sentiments. Originally from New York, McCabe said she didn’t have much experience with suburban preschools, so it was “so surprising to see how great it was, how much they teach them.”

“I’m just hoping that there’s a miracle,” McCabe said of the petition. “I’ve talked to a lot of parents. If there’s a chance the school could stay open, they’d go back.”

Did you send your children through Black Rock Nursery School? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Gerard Speno March 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Why don't they take over that school for rent between Tunxis and Black Rock
Alison Mortimer March 22, 2012 at 03:11 PM
They need a consigner to rent that space (holy family school) and black rock church won't cosign. BRCC isn't helping the preschool continue. I agree with Katie. If the elders walked down the hall of the preschool during the hours of 9:15-12:15 they would see what all of the parents see everyday. 17 women who love their jobs, who love the children and the families of the school. They would see over a hundred happy children learning and exploring. If they saw what we see, I think they would recognize the tremendous value this Christian preschool has in our community. My two daughters went to BRNS and it's a wonderful school. My 4 year old will graduate in June and my son was one of those 70 registered for the fall. He isn't going to be able to go to BRNS and it's sad since he knows the school and he knows the teachers. We are all so sad to see it close.
Rick Coombs March 22, 2012 at 04:18 PM
All three of our children attended the BRNS and via this connection with the church I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That's at least one life saved for eternity that I know about. How much money is that worth? I venture to say that my salvation isn't the only one the Lord used the school to lead the lost to Himself, nor would it be the last IF the school (teaching salvation through Jesus Christ to our young ones--AND their parents!) is continued. How much money are those saved lives worth? BRCC should not walk away from this proven, powerful mission.
Joe March 23, 2012 at 04:14 AM
The reason is that the preschool would need to be relocated during construction of the new church. The church sought several options such as renting an alternate space. But no landlord would lease their building to the preschool for only two years, especially when it became apparent that extensive renovations would be required to meet the building code required by the State of Connecticut for a nursery school. Then the church tried to negotiate using another church's space, but in order for them to do necessary remodeling of their building, their contract required BRCC to sign a multi-year co-lease agreement, committing the church to a significant financial obligation.
Momtoo March 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I find it interesting that different people are told different things. I wonder if that is why they don't allow the congregation to have a church meeting regarding this subject. When I was a member of BRCC we had a meeting that included a vote on changing letterhead. I wonder why a subject as crucial as the nursery school was not afforded the same status.
For the Children March 23, 2012 at 09:23 PM
In response to the posting by "Joe" I feel obligated to correct his false claims. First of all the church never located an alternate space. That was done by several of the teachers on their own time and at their own expense. It was only after several possible locations were found that the church became involved in a minor way. Joe is using an old issue involving building code requirements that have nothing to do with the final issue of BRCC refusing to co-sign on a multi-year lease. As for the church being committed to a significant financial obligation I would contend that there is no amount of money you can place on the souls of hundreds of children.
Fairfield resident March 24, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Joe has regurgitated the reason stated by the church in the letter they sent out. We all got the tactfully written public relations letter. The nursery school shouldn't be swept aside to make way for other things. It's important.
Joe March 24, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Please tell me why the church members should be saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep an independent tuition-based nursery school open?
Joe March 24, 2012 at 05:27 AM
"For The Children:" The church does commit a substantial financial amount to children. Do you know of all the children's ministries that operate out of the church? The difference with BRNS is that it is a tuition-based nursery school that started out closely linked to the church as a ministry but over the years chose to become more and more independent and with less apparent emphasis on Bible teaching. Now parents want the church members to pay exceeding amounts of money to operate this independent nursery school at an alternate location. That makes little financial or logistical sense to me.
Momtoo March 24, 2012 at 10:24 PM
It seems that Joe is very passionate about the amount of money the church spends on the nursery school. Perhaps he is unaware of the fact the the church leaders tell certain people that the nursery school is most assuredly part of the church family. I wonder who is telling him they are not. Could it be the very same people that are telling the nursery school they are? Also It is hard for any thinking person to just blindly believe that the nursery school has been financially saddling the church for over 40 years. He says they are an independent tuition-based, school. They share the same tax id number, where do you think all that tuition goes? About the fact that they do not place importance on Bible teaching, interesting thought. Has he or any of his children (if he has them) ever attended? People come to that school because it is Christian, if he knew the kids or their parents or the teachers he would know that. Perhaps he is just an agent of the enemy trying to divide God's people.
For the Children March 25, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Joe, How is the nursery school "saddling" church members with hundreds of thousands of dollars? The nursery school is the only childrens program that actually brings money into the church budget and pays all its own expenses out of that budget!! As for its "independence" again you are way off base. The school was started in the church 42 years ago and to this day operates out of the church building with the name "Black Rock Nursery School". With your way of thinking I guess a fetus could be independant of it's mother while still in the womb!! You obviously have an agenda and are spuing propaganda. Who is feeding you this "dis-information". Stop drinking the Koolaide and join the forces of good over evil.
Joe March 25, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Momtoo: If you reviewed the church budget, there is no inclusion of any items having to do with BRNS. That is because BRNS's budget and finances are decided by the BRNS administration, not by the pastoral staff of the church or the church’s children‘s leadership. The church’s members do not pay for the operation of the school, rather, tuition does. The nursery school leadership decides how that money is spent, not the congregation, and the tuition goes to the school alone. The reason why I think BRNS does not appear to be a close part of the church family is the independent nature of the program. Beyond shared facility space, there seems to be little association between the preschool and the church community and its mission. It is seen precisely in the reaction to its closing. Certain individuals in the preschool community have unfairly attacked the church and it’s leadership rather than be grateful for the 4 decades of enabling it to exist. You talk about being divisive of God’s people? I have talked to people who have been a part of the school. They have reported that for many years, the teaching of the Bible was marginal or nonexistent, and that certain teachers simply “didn‘t have time” to teach Bible lessons. That certainly may have changed in recent years, and if it has, that’s great - but that is the impression that a lot of people in the church have of the program.
Joe March 25, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I didn't say it currently was. I asked why the church should be asked do this. What you want is for church members to spend a considerable amount money to operate BRNS at an alternates site that is fully compliant with the excessive CT state regulations. How does it make financial sense for a church to do that? The church does not make money off of the program. Whatever they take in through tuition goes back to the program. The church does not have any items in the budget pertaining to BRNS, so the program, financially speaking, is certainly independent of the church. The facility itself is what the church provides and has since 1969.
Joe March 25, 2012 at 02:08 AM
I have no agenda. I am not spewing "propaganda." I am not a agent of evil or whatever other dramatic terms you wish to paint. I am simply trying to observe this as a church member who is considering the situation, where various people are coming from and trying to answer the harsh nature of those who attack my church and its leaders while at the same time ask me and my church community to contribute a huge financial commitment to keep it going. I am simply asking why we should be asked to do this, and how it is the best use of financial stewardship of what God has given us. I am not out to condemn or accuse anyone of anything harsh with ugly characterizations. I want to discuss it in a Christ-like manner. Can we not do that?
For the Children March 25, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Joe, In the spirit of Christ overturning the money changer's tables in the Temple I will be as Christ like as possible. The fact of the matter is the decision to end the existence of a vibrant, well loved, Christ centered nursery school was made by only a few top officials as a "business decision" in the building of a 28 million dollar facility that includes a "Coffee Bar" of all things. Since you seem to be so concerned with what is best for the congregation why was this decision made without a vote from them or even letting them know it was happening. Did they make you their spokesperson? Things done in secret are never good! By the way if the Nursery School was a ministry as was stated numerouse times by the Church leaders why were they singled out for extermination. Why not Fusion, Pioneer Girls, Boys Brigade,Sunday School, or Sanctuary? Do the Church members have a say in how these programs operate or how they spend their money? The answer is NO!!! Maybe the reason you feel the "Church leaders" are being attacked is because they have made a terrible unilateral decision that is rightfully coming back to make them look bad. .There is so much more I could say that would shock the good Christ following members of this "Church" as to how this situation was handled but that wouldn't be very "Christ Like". PS. If the Fairfield Patch does an article on the clubbing of baby Harp Seals are you going to defend the practice because of its monetary benefit!!!?
Joe March 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM
The ministries you mentioned are not tuition based schools, they are congregation-supported ministries, and yes, the congregation does have a say in what gets spent for them - that is because those ministries appear in the annual budget that needs to be voted on each year by the congregation. Their expenses are listed in line items, so that the congregation can see exactly what the ministry spends. Those ministries are overseen by boards and leadership advisory teams consisting of church members, who advise the pastoral staff on their decisions. I was on the children’s' board a few years ago. Never once did I hear any reports from the Nursery School, nor see any financial sheets, nor was I given any of the school’s curriculum to review. And it became apparent to me that the Nursery School’s leadership was decidedly separate from the oversight of the children’s board and very little, if any, oversight by the children’s pastor. I have no say, as a member of the church, of what goes on at BRNS and how they choose to run the program or spend their finances. I do have a say about what the church does in regards to its ministries. Clearly there is a difference. Also, the logistics of relocating those ministries for the duration of the new church’s construction do not require specially modified rental space at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the congregation.
Joe March 26, 2012 at 12:09 AM
The design of the new church building has been thoroughly presented for review and comment by the congregation, and they have had the opportunity to approve of what the elders have proposed or suggest changes to it. If the congregation agreed with or rejected any component, such as a café, they’ve had multiple opportunities to speak up about it. As I said earlier, I am not an undercover spokesperson, just someone who is trying to support my church and its leadership and the hard decision it had to make. I have tried to find a reason why the members of my church are being asked to a carry huge financial burden, while at the same time be attacked by those people who are asking of it. I still haven’t received any adequate answer. Sensible financial stewardship is a completely biblically-based concept. God gives us money to do His work. It is our job, as a church, to make wise decisions on how that money is spent. And if something comes along that doesn’t appear like a wise use of our finances, like spending exceeding amounts of money to upgrade a rental space to be compliant with CT regulations for preschools for a 2 year duration, then we need to have the wisdom to say no, even when it is unpopular and paints a target on our backs.
Joe March 26, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I understand and admire your passion for the program, and that you feel strongly about it continuing. Nobody, including me, is happy about the closure of the school. I personally would be fine with the school returning to the new building. But when you and others attack and characterize the church leadership and those who agree with its decision as being underhanded and greedy, rather than people making sensible financial decisions based on the way they feel is the best use of financial stewardship, you drive a stake between the two parties that doesn’t facilitate a reasonable discussion. When you characterize me as being a “Kool-Aid drinker” or and undercover spokesperson or on the side of “evil” because I don’t see the financial sense of supporting BRNS at an alternate location at tremendous financial commitment to the church members, when those church members are given no opportunity to have any say in the leadership of the program, it shows a lack of respect for anyone who might have a different opinion than you. You move the discussion outside of the realm in which Christians should discuss things when you throw out these harsh characterizations, and you make it difficult for people to see your point of view and be convinced of your opinion.
Alison Mortimer March 27, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Even if my son won't be able to attend BRNS this fall, I hope the church reconsiders the building plans. Adding a nursery school would benefit many children. We had a great experience at BRNS with two children and it was a blessing to our family. Hopefully church members who feel the same way will voice their concerns at the meeting on Wednesday night.
Momtoo March 28, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The preschool was looking for a long term lease as BRCC had told them that they would not be a part of the new building. They needed BRCC to co-sign a two year lease which they (BRCC) would not do. It is my understanding that the school they were negotiating with had raised a significant part of the funds necessary funds to get the building up to state codes. The Christian community at that church, it's leader in particular, felt that that it was their duty to provide a space for pre-schoolers to receive a christian education.
Momtoo March 28, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Joe: Several times you mentioned the church budget and the lack of line items regarding the nursery school. That suggests to me that no money was going out to support the nursery school either. How then do you support your claims that the school was a financial burden? Also you state that the school was asking the church to support them during their relocation, was this at a congregational meeting? I don't recall it being put to the members. I believe that this is what the people want. Accurate information dispensed to all, at the same time, so members can make an educated and informed decision as to what happens with their tithes. As much as I may love a latte, I would like to know just how much this coffee bar is costing vs how much the actual cost of co-signing a two year lease would be.
Lynn Anne May 09, 2012 at 05:17 PM
We have availibility to help families out if they are without care for their children by June 1st. We are a licensed daycare/Preschool in Black Rock and have room for children and staff. Please call our center between 1-3 daily, or send us an e-mail (place in the re: childcare needed please) as we are willing to work with your hours of need and your current tuition rates at the church. 203-335-4200, blackrock@clockworklearning.com, ask for Lynn.
Joe May 15, 2012 at 07:48 AM
Momtoo: It WOULD be a financial burden to pay to relocate the school in an alternate location that is fully compliant with the state regs. That is what I was referring to and that is what is exactly being asked of us. And I'm willing to bet buying a counter to dispense coffee is less than renting a facility and paying to make it compliant.

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