Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Looking for a Hero: 50-year-old Durham preschool needs new home

Posted June 14, 2011
Updated June 15, 2011

Editor's Note: Beth Messersmith writes for Go Ask Mom most months because of her participation in the group MomsRising. Today, she's writing about a personal concern - the closing of her son's former preschool.

Superheroes are an everyday occurrence at my house. As the mother of a small boy, I seem to be constantly stepping on Batman or Superman wherever I turn.

But this week I’ve found myself yearning for a real hero who can come to the rescue and save a wonderful preschool and kindergarten program that has served Durham families for fifty years.

St. Luke’s Preschool and Kindergarten closed unexpectedly this month, leaving parents and teachers struggling for answers and 85 children without a place to go to school this fall. Citing concerns about lower enrollment and a need for the space, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church decided to close a school that has taught two generations of Durham families.

The teachers, some of whom had taught there over 20 years, were let go and locked out of their classrooms. Parents who had been counting on this program for the fall were left scrambling for slots at other preschools, many of which had filled months ago. Rising kindergartners who had missed the lotteries for Durham’s magnets, year rounds, and charter schools were left in limbo with few options. And the children who had been looking forward to reuniting with their friends back at school in the fall were left struggling to understand what happened to their school.

Whatever the reasons, the decision has left parents, children, and teachers heartbroken, but determined not to lose a place that has been a treasure for so many years and which still has so much to offer our community.

Can you be our hero and help us honor the commitments that were made to these children and families?

We need a church or other facility that would be willing to open their doors and share classroom space with us, even if it’s just for one year. We have committed teachers with decades of experience and a passion for teaching; dedicated families; and eager little 3- to 5-year-olds who deserve the great start they were promised when they enrolled in St. Luke’s this spring. All we need is a home.

If you own or know of a space that could accommodate preschool classes and an outdoor play area, even for only the coming year, please contact the St. Luke’s Parent-Teacher Coalition at 919-218-6934.

This wonderful school deserves a second chance.

Beth Messersmith is a Durham resident and mother of a recent St. Luke’s Kindergarten graduate and a toddler who she hoped would attend the school one day.


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  • mcmgaylord04 Jun 15, 2011

    Kindness, love, compassion, and respect towards others are just as important as academics.Getting along with others is a trait which carries us into our adulthood. Please don't minimize what affect a teacher has a child's life. This disrespects teachers who truly love to be around children.Saberage totally missed the point of this article!

  • bethmessersmith Jun 14, 2011

    Because of these gifted, devoted teachers, our children will have both the academic and the social experiences that will help them to thrive.

    St. Luke’s was a half day preschool program, and the majority of the families had a parent either at home full-time or had arranged part-time or flexible work schedules that allow them to be with their children for most of the workday. I left a job I loved to be able to spend this time with my children. This was a luxury that I was fortunate to have and not simply a choice as Saberage implies. For many parents, working outside the home is an economic necessity. Whether parents are seeking early learning programs solely to expand their child’s experiences or because child care is a necessity for their family’s economic security, it’s in our entire community’s best interest to have quality early learning programs staffed by dedicated, loving, and talented teachers.

    St. Luke’s was an incredible program, and I truly hope that others

  • bethmessersmith Jun 14, 2011

    As former St. Luke’s parents, we aren’t looking for sympathy. We are simply reaching out to the Durham community to ask them to join us in saving a program that has provided a great service to Durham families for decades.

    Saberage seems to see little value in early learning as a whole. This is unfortunate given that research shows that the experiences children have in the first five years of life are key to brain development and strongly affect whether a child grows up to be a healthy, productive member of society. As parents, we aren’t looking for babysitting but rather to provide our children the opportunity to grow, to become more self-reliant, to learn how to interact with their peers, to pay attention, and to listen to and trust adults beyond their family. These lessons are just as important as the academic skills the children learn and are essential factors for later academic success. Because of these gifted, devoted teachers, our children will have both the academic

  • jrwachholz Jun 14, 2011

    Saberage - Evidently you missed out on something, namely the social skills taught in preschool and kindergarten.

  • Vita Brevis Ars Longa Jun 14, 2011

    I have no sympathy for these mothers. Most of them are just too lazy to take care of their own children and find pre-school as easy baby sitting. I never attended pre-school or kindergarten and did quite well in my academic life. If you are going to take the steps to have a child, perhaps you need to set aside the time needed to bring them up as opposed to expecting the county or some church to step in as a surrogate for your youngster while you jaw-flap in a cubicle in RTP so you can pay for the Hummer.