By Ashley Lodato

Although I truly did have to walk a mile uphill to get home from the bus stop when I was in elementary school, I know that the tendency to exaggerate one’s hardships in youth is a widespread problem. That’s why I pay little attention when people are complaining about how easy the current generation has it compared to their own experiences, knowing how distorted by time their memories have become.

Still, the Little Star Montessori School graduates who are now in elementary, junior high and high school may have a point. As they watch Little Star’s new buildings take shape and remember their own experiences in that building that now seems so small in comparison, it’s no surprise that they’re asking “What in the heck is going on with my little school?”

Here’s the story. For the past 35 years, late Little Star founder Rayma Hayes and her staff have been ensuring that all Methow Valley children have access to nurturing, high-quality child care. The vision includes infants, young toddlers, low-income families, full-pay families, visiting families and parents from all walks of life. For 20 years Little Star has had a wait list for enrollment, but complementing this anecdotal support of a greater need for child care is a bona fide needs assessment.

In 2014, Little Star collaborated with Room One and the Methow Valley School District to complete a detailed needs assessment, and concluded that an early childhood education and child care crisis in the Methow Valley “is hurting our local businesses, setting back our schools and adding stress for families.” The biggest needs identified were for child care for ages 0-3, full-day programs, summer child care and coordinated parent support and education.

So Little Star is stretching to meet this need and fill the early childhood education gap in our community. This means adding a classroom in Twisp that accommodates 16 children, plus expanding the Winthrop campus to include two toddler classrooms, an infant class and an indoor active area — all spaces the school has never had before.

If you’ve seen the new building under construction, you’ve probably noticed that it’s big. It’s tall to accommodate the insulation required by the new energy codes, to include ducts in the ceiling to avoid having children throw things down the vents, to maximize natural light by allowing for transom windows, to meet town Westernization standards, and to vary ceiling heights based on research on engaging classrooms.

So yes, our little school — the place that gave so many of our children a joyful start to formal education, the place where we formed friendships, the place that supported many of us through the challenging early days of parenting — is growing, but only to open its doors to the wider community of Methow Valley children who will thrive within its embrace.

PREVIOUSLY, IN WINTHROP

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