Children’s Center Gives Earliest Learners a Running Start


Left to Right: Timothy Fay, Mackenzie Bly, Madison Fulcher-Melendy, Nicholas Zeljo, Isabella Poutatiane, Kate Kelly, Couper Gunn, Taylor Johnson, Ellie Gregg, Harry Hazelton, Lindsay Whipple. May 2000

Williston is truly home to learners of all ages.
The Children’s Center, located below the Dining Hall, takes in children who range from 15 months to five years old. All faculty kids, as well as kids from neighboring towns, are welcome.
Since its inception 23 years go, the Children’s Center provides on campus, easy access daycare for all faculty and staff at Williston. They take up to 44 kids per year, with the help of 11 staff members, all of whom are certified through the Massachusetts’s Department of Early Education and Care.
The program has given a running start to upwards of 1,000 kids in its two-plus decades of operation.
Keira Durrett, the Director of The Children’s Center, explained the reason behind its opening.
“In the fall of 2000,” she said, there was “a mini-baby boom on campus. 11 children born in one year. At the same time, there were not other options in town for child care.”
Durrett, along with other staff, have worked there since its opening. That longevity and commitment to one position is rare.
“Most of the teachers have been here between 15-22 years!” she explained. “This is very unusual in the field of early childhood education, where there is typically a huge amount of turnover. This speaks to the incredible environment that we have at Williston and in the community.”
“Watching children learn and grow is a privilege,” she added. “Being able to help them build a love of learning is such a gift to us. They spend their days exploring, discovering, questioning and building relationships with each other and the world around them.”
The children are encouraged to explore and have fun within the structure of a daily schedule.
“Each day we greet children into the classrooms, where they get to learn through play,” she said. “The teachers provide activities to engage the children’s curiosity, imagination and social skills. We read books, explore different art and sensory mediums, get messy, and play outside. Through this play, children are learning pre-reading, pre-math, literacy, cognitive, and social skills all day! Everything we do is about learning opportunities for the children at all ages.”
The Children’s Center also hires students to help out in the summer.
Avery Brooks, a senior day student from Westhampton, worked there last summer.
“I really enjoy working there, everyone is super nice,” Avery said. “I like hanging out with the kids and getting to make connections with them, such as when they ask me to read or help them build something in the sand box on the playground … to me it is not a job but rather a part of my day that makes me happy.”
The staff’s dedication and enthusiasm does not go unnoticed by the parents either.
MattieByrd McHold, Head Librarian, is the parent of a girl who attends the Children’s Center.
“One thing I’m so grateful for is how dedicated they were to reopen in the fall of 2020,” McHold said. “It was over a year before there was a reported Covid case in a classroom. They were so intentional in everything they did and the communication with families was fantastic. I felt confident bringing Parker to school every day.”
“When I talked to people outside of the community, one of the first things I would mention was how lucky I was that Parker was in that program and that she was still able to socialize and not lose ground developmentally,” she added.