A 50-year tradition in Bridgewater comes to an end this month with the closing of the Wee Wisdom Nursery School, due to declining enrolment and staffing retention issues.
The independently-operated preschool and school readiness operation began running four-day-per-week programs at the end of November up to and including December 17, when the nursery school closes for good.
Parents of the more than 30 students attending Wee Wisdom were notified earlier in November of the pending closure. Supporters agreed it's a sad development and a big loss for the town and communities that depended on the service.
"The community has been a tremendous support to sustaining our program, and we certainly appreciated that over the years," Linda Walker, chairwoman of the Wee Wisdom board, told LighthouseNOW. "But it comes to a point you need more than that to sustain the program."
Enrolment at the nursery school began to plummet when the province started offering free, universal pre-primary education - and the potential of busing - the year before the youngster starts school. Private nursery schools, such as Wee Wisdom, charge fees for services.
COVID-19 concerns, coupled with a batch of staff turn-overs, left the service challenged to keep qualified personnel.
Wee Wisdom made staffing inquiries to public school administration on the South Shore with no help in response, Walker said.
Government grants, including COVID-19-related financial aid, helped cover costs such as staff and rent of the nursery school's two rooms inside the Bridgewater United Church, which is off Hillcrest Street. But fewer students means less revenue, and "in the end we have to be responsible financially," Walker said.
"It's just very sad; it's a chapter in our history that is now going to close. It's difficult," she added.
The volunteer board is grateful to the Lunenburg County parents, children, and families for more than five decades of help.
"We just got to the point we cannot sustain the program," Walker lamented. "We're sorry to say, after over 50 years, it has come to a close."