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One of the Elm City’s historic mansions will soon become a center for childcare and education.

The mansion, located on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, is the site of an expansion to the Montessori School On Edgewood that would add a private childcare center for infants and toddlers ages 6 weeks to 3 years.

Mikhila Pingili, Townsend Maier’s assistant, cited a more explicit need for “4600 infant and toddler slots” in the last year with Greater New Haven being short of almost 2000 slots. While the mansion-turned-school is currently only licensed to welcome 12 students, leaders of the project believe that this is an important step in the right direction. 

“We’re going to fill a very small number of slots, but it is slots that are for the families that need it the most,” said Pingili. “These are the working families who are working day and night for their children.”

Linda Townsend Maier, executive director of the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, said this project was driven by a need to serve the New Haven community. She specifically stated a growing need for more pre-primary spaces.

“There’s a need for more infant-toddler slots,” Maier said.

Malm explained that they would choose the 12 students  off of a waiting list relying on a first-come, first-serve system while considering who is “most eligible tuition-wise.”

The school plans to operate out of a sliding scale fee sent by the Office of Early Childhood,  which dictates how much every parent can be charged based on their income and family size. Families with lower income will therefore be paying significantly less than a family that makes more.

However, the project’s organizers are also dedicated to ensuring that they provide high-quality education. Cecile Malm, the director of the Montessori School in Edgewood, highlights the school’s commitment to practicing a method of learning that she believes to be optimal: the Montessori method.

The Montessori style of teaching can be traced back to Maria Montessori, an Italian educator. As she experimented with different methods of teaching and learning, Montessori came to advocate for academic environments that promote freedom, growth and independence. Montessori educational models usually feature small student to teacher ratios, students choosing which activity to partake in from a variety of options and continuous portions of work time. 

The school on Edgewood seeks to implement this model, with its 4:1 teacher-student ratio and small number of students, but with some modifications.

The Montessori On Edgewood has been in operation since 2006. It was established following a recommendation in the Dwight neighborhood’s Comprehensive plan to have  a quality school for children in the area to attend.

“We’re still practicing some Montessori aspects of the program,” Malm explained. “It will be a modified Montessori program and if we get funding from the state, the state curriculum and assessment will be implemented there as well so it’s a mix of Montessori and a traditional approach to teaching.”

For Pingili, the mansion’s setting also contributes to creating a unique learning environment for the children. 

“The fact that it is a mansion I think will give students a different perspective of the world simply because once it’s restored, it’s not going to be plain blank walls,” Pingili said. “We’re going to maintain some of the historic characteristics of the house, so they will have different textures and sights to look at.”

The mansion’s historic nature has kept the school in constant dialogue with the Historical Preservation Office in order to meet their requirements. On top of that, having children present in the historic buildings adds another layer of regulations. 

“On top of that it was a private house that we’re turning into a childcare so there is construction that has to be done to get the building up to code to run a childcare,” Pingili explained. “Everything from fire prevention, to entrances and exits out of the building have to meet the codes set forth by the Department of Health for childcare centers.” 

So far, the Greater Dwight Development Corporation has received $2 million in grants from Connecticut’s Department of Education for construction. Pingili cited Rep. Pat Dillon, Sen. Martin Looney and House Rep. Rosa DeLauro as instrumental in getting them this funding.

“You’re never going to see a better return on investment for your money than in supporting childcare,” Pingili said.

The school is projected to open in fall of 2024 or 2025.

Sarah Ben Tkhayet covers Business. She is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs and Economics.