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The former home of the Charles A. Persip American Legion is being transformed into a preschool.

Former Pittsfield Legion Post to Become Preschool

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Ready Set Learn is installing a sodded playground area with a jungle gym and a fence.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Ready Set Learn Preschool is opening a second location in the heart of Pittsfield that will avail 80 additional spots for enrollment to meet growing demand.
The former American Legion post home at 41 Wendell Ave. will house the new facility, which is slated to open in the fall. It will feature two 3-year-old classrooms, one prekindergarten class, and a private kindergarten class that is new to the curriculum.
Owner and operator Melissa Fawcett aims to provide an experience that is both fun and educational for children, leaving them feeling confident and prepared for K-12 school.
Property owners Mill Town Capital and Scarafoni Financial Group have agreed to a five-year lease with the preschool with the option for a five-year extension. The groups will serve as the landlord while funding property improvements and the buildout.
"They're amazing," Fawcett said. "They're updating the building, so they're putting a ton of work and updates into it, and then we're leasing the space from them."
She reached out to Mill Town to ask if the company would be interested in a partnership after waitlist numbers for child care got excessive and it became clear that more space was necessary. The company has owned the building for a few years now and has considered different uses for it.
Ready Set Learn has reportedly always had a waitlist but each year it is seeing interest increasing along with the number of families that cannot be served with just one location.
The 80 new spots will be in addition to the existing 60 spots at the first location on the corner of Benedict Road and Dalton Avenue.
"We've had this massive waitlist even though we have three different classrooms here," Fawcett added. "We usually enroll September to June, like the school year, so when I was enrolling, I'm like, OK, we're enrolling, we still have like 45 kids on this list that we don't have any space for."
She will be independently installing a playground on the left corner of the lot. 
In addition to filling the need for child care, the new location has provided full-time jobs for eight teachers and a few part-time staff positions.
In 2018, Fawcett and her husband, Ken, purchased the former St. Martin's Episcopal Church at the intersection of Dalton Avenue after operating the preschool from their residential home on Virginia Avenue for four years.
The couple put around $170,000 into the church renovation and has welcomed countless Berkshire County children since.
When Ready Set Learn was founded, Fawcett had been a public school teacher for 10 years. Because of her background, she wanted both her child and others to have the option to be challenged academically before they enter school.
Former public school teachers lead the classrooms. Curriculum and structure are woven into the preschool's schedule that includes a morning meeting, free play, read-aloud, small group instruction, time outside, and monthly field trips.
The children visit locations such as the Pittsfield Fire Department, Hancock Shaker Village, and Bartlett's Apple Orchard. Fawcett said she is excited for the new location being downtown because they are a short walk from the Berkshire Museum and the Berkshire Athenaeum, which she hopes to be included in future field trips.
The Wendell Avenue facility also provides convenience for some families who work downtown.
In a press release, CEO and Managing Director of Mill Town Tim Burke and founder and partner of Scarafoni Financial Group Matthew Scarafoni said they are pleased to enter into an agreement with Ready Set Learn and that this project is a good investment in the community.
For more information visit Ready Set Learn's website.

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Pittsfield Man Charged in Second Fire at White Terrace Building

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Pittsfield man is being charged with arson after firefighters responded Thursday to a second blaze at the large apartment building on White Terrace and North Street.
Police say Joseph Stone, 43 was taken into custody on Thursday and will be arraigned on Friday in District Court on a single charge of arson.
The fire was called in at about 2:17 p.m. on Thursday at 8 White Terrace. Firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the fire, though the building did suffer damage. No injuries were reported and the investigation led to Stone, said police.
The vacant building was the site of a major structure fire on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at 6 White Terrace, the neighboring building. The multi-apartment structures have been vacant since another major fire in 2017 that was deemed accidental.
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