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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.

Tags: preschool,   

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BCC Institutes Debt Forgiveness Program

PITTSFIELD, Mass — Berkshire Community College (BCC) announced its plans to use $335,000 in federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to erase outstanding balances accrued by students enrolled in credit degree or certificate programs from March 13, 2020 through May 31, 2021. 
 
HEERF funds were earmarked as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
 
Students affected by the program have been informed via letter, which states:
 
"We care about you, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help you continue to meet your educational goals at BCC. We appreciate the challenges of being a college student during the pandemic, and we are here to help you moving forward."
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