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Coalport Nursery Staying Open

A Clearfield County nursery school was on the brink of shutting down in the middle of the year. That was prevented, and on Thursday the school and local lawmakers celebrated keeping it open.

Douglas Braff went back to school today in Coalport and sat in on reading time.

Local pre-k is vital to rural communities like Coalport. Without them, families would have to travel farther just to give their kids an early childhood education.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was on the verge of suddenly closing Coalport Community Nursery School this winter. Had the nursery shut down, 22 kids would’ve been without schooling. The board-run school shares a building with the Coalport Area Coal Museum and the local library.

Clearfield County Commissioner Mary Tatum, of the Coalport area, says the reason for the near-shutdown was due to licensing issues.

Commissioner Dave Glass tells us, “I understand they need to do that [sort out licensing], but you can’t take the kids outta class in the middle of the winter.”

“We were able to collaborate as a group,” Tatum recalls, “and Dave was able to help get in touch with the governor’s office and advocate that we could keep the school open, at least for the school year, and give them some time to get the processes fixed.”

To celebrate the school staying open, these lawmakers took a break from reading legislation to read the kids some Dr. Seuss books. The commissioners also played games, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the kids — all on famous children’s book author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday, too.

Of the experience with the kids, Commissioner John Sobel tells us, “It’s sure a lot easier than having to plow through a statute book, I can tell you,”

Only 39% of the nearly 170,000 eligible Pennsylvania children between the ages of 3 and 4 “have access to high-quality pre-k.” That’s according to data the education-advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children cited from October 2021.

Had the school closed its doors, a search on Google Maps shows the next-closest nursery schools to Coalport are about 30 minutes away.

Sobel says, “These kids are gonna be the leaders someday and and there’s all kinds of talent there, and we just wanted to make sure that that talent gets a chance to develop.”

Local pre-k’s not only important to early childhood development but also to the community fabric. Tatum notes, “Many of the children — and even the people that I graduated Glendale with — they attended the Coalport Nursery School. So, this is just ingrained in our culture and our history.”

“The big thing,” Glass emphasizes, is that the commissioners and governor’s office have “bought them time to make sure this [licensing] is done to the state’s satisfaction.”

For now, the phrase “back to school” has a new meaning at Coalport Community Nursery.

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