VANDALIA — After 70 years of educating area preschoolers and kindergartners, Vandalia Playschool closed this fall.
According to Co-Director Donna Shirley, who has been involved in the school about 49 years, said the school started because there was no kindergarten in the public school system and there was government housing in the area where the Vandalia Post Office is now located, managed by Edythe Eby. She said some of the people who lived there were teachers. Eby in collaboration with some of the teachers agreed that kindergarten aged children needed to have some schooling before starting first grade and the original school was in the government housing area.
By the 1960s there were about 30 students in preschool with classes broken down into age groups of six to eight per teacher. By the 1970s, the preschool program grew to as many as 110 children. In the 1990s, the license was for 60 preschoolers and 12 school aged children that weren’t quite ready for kindergarten.
Locations of the school have also included a location behind Jim’s Donuts. It was then located at the Episcopal Church for 40 years. Around 1998, they shared a location with the Alpha School for four years. The school then finished out the final 13 years in the educational wing of the Vandalia United Methodist Church, averaging 40 to 50 students with seven teachers split between the three-year old classes and the four to five age classes.
Last year, the school had 14 children, with two classes of four to five year olds and a class of two three-year-olds and the school was just able to make it financially. Leaders made the decision to close in September after less students enrolled.
Co-Director Deanna Breidenbach said that part of the demise of the preschool was not having a day care program. They also did not offer busing for students. The school operated from 9:10 to 11:10 a.m. Monday to Friday. However, she said that they received comments from public school educators about how well the students from Vandalia Playschool were prepared to enter kindergarten.
Cheryl Beimly, the music teacher for 24 years, said she really enjoyed “doing music with the children.”
“It’s been fun,” she said. “Last Friday would have been the Halloween program — I kind of felt the void.”
“It’s a sadness — we’re very sad that we had to end it,” said Breidenbach.
Shirley said that for the past 49 years, the school has been “a lot of my life.”
“I’ve missed it so much that I’ve gone back to college at the age of 56 to get my teaching certificate so I can teach in a public school-preschool,” said Cindy Beyoglides, whose passion was teaching science.
A sale of various materials from Vandalia Playschool will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 at Vandalia United Methodist Church, located at 200 S. Dixie Dr. Some items were sold to another preschool, so some of the items will continue on as part of the education process.
“We’re hoping that students that have come here and their families that have been involved with the school, will come and see us,” said Breidenbach.
Reach Greg Smart at 937-684-8088 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com