FITCHBURG -- After a 14-year hiatus, preschoolers are again enrolled at Applewild.

"To have 3- and 4-year-olds back on campus is a wonderful gift," said Head of School Christopher B. Williamson.

A small group of teachers, administrators parents and public officials were among those gathered for Friday morning's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly opened Child Development Center at Applewild.

Students stood on the steps of the newly refurbished white clapboard building, surrounded by their teachers, and sang a short song about how much they liked their new school. They also distributed hand-made books to some of the people who made this addition to Applewild possible.

The decision to once again have a preschool came on the heels of learning that the former Burbank Child Development Center, located a short drive away on HealthAlliance's Fitchburg campus, was set to close, Williamson said.

His school was already considering adding a preschool component to the K-8 program, and the Burbank news was the final impetus to do that, said Williamson, who noted that he knew his school had the space.

"It really is a very nice return to Applewild history," he added. "It's just so exciting to have the energy of these kids back with us," he stated.

The decision to close the Burbank school was announced in December. But Williamson said it was later decided to keep it open until June, in order to provide a smooth transition to Applewild.


Burbank's last class was June 14, a Friday, and the students enrolled could began to attend Applewild the following Monday. Many students made the switch.

"There were no breaks for the kids. The same teachers came," said Peggy Williamson, Applewild's public-relations director.

Classes were held in the cafeteria during the summer, while work began on the inside of the new school.

The Child Development Center is where the old Applewild pre-primary school was located. When that closed, it became the school's choral music room. The choral room has now been moved to the back on the building, to make way for the preschoolers.

The current Child Development Center is closely aligned with its predecessor, as it will maintain the same curriculum program and the same core values. He said some of the Applewild staff had previously sent their own children to the Burbank center.

Enrollment flexibility has also continued. Williamson explained that options include a part-time or a full-time schedule.

Williamson said even though the young students are part of Applewild, the preschool program is not designed as a feeder system.

"Our hope is that families will be interested in continuing on with K-8, but it's not in any way an expectation," he said.

Preschool co-teacher Bonnie Buckley formerly worked at the Burbank center as a infant and toddler teacher. She was hired by Applewild to teach in the new preschool.

"I'm so excited to be here," she said. "It's nice to be here with former teachers and some of the former children."