Wesley Child Care Center moves to St. Matthew's

A former Catholic school building, dormant since its closure in 2006, will soon bustle with the sounds of small feet again.

The Wesley Child Care Center will celebrate its new location at 29 Stanton St. on Feb. 14 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The building housed St. Matthew School until June 2006, when low enrollment and budget concerns caused the school to close its doors.

The Wesley Child Care Center signed a 10-year lease on the property before moving into the building in late November. Program director Judith Conway said that they had been looking for a new space for quite some time but as a non-profit they couldn't afford to purchase anything. Conway said that Father Bill Joy of St. Matthew and the Archdiocese of Boston have been very accommodating to the childcare center.

"With all the reconfiguration of Catholic schools in the area, I think it's a wonderful opportunity that the Archdiocese has given us. I applaud them, particularly Father Joy, for being so open to helping us serve the community," Conway said.

After 38 years at their previous location, in the Wesley United Methodist Church in the Lower Mills area, the staff at Wesley Child Care Center was eager to expand at a new site. With 12 employees and nearly 70 preschool and school-age students, more space was a necessity. Conway said that the center's new building has the capacity to serve 120 students and they look forward to expanding. The center currently has a waiting list for enrollment and is gradually accepting more students; five families have joined the center since the move took place.

"It's nice to have something that is our own," assistant director Debbie Wagner said. While at the Wesley United Methodist Church, the staff often found it difficult to manage the shared space. At their new site, they no longer have to hide the toys and children's furniture away at the end of the day, Wagner said.

"It's a whole different environment, geared towards children as opposed to the church, which was geared towards adults," Wagner said of the center's new location.

Since moving into St. Matthew school, the Wesley Child Care Center updated the building's fire alarm system, added carbon monoxide detectors, removed lead paint and lowered handrails throughout the building to make it ready for preschoolers. In the future, they hope to install a kitchen and elevators, Wagner said, and are looking for grants to fund further projects.

"It's a really wonderful space with great lighting and great windows," Conway said. Her only regret is not having a video camera to savor the look on the kids' faces when they first saw the new center.

"They were so excited their eyes were bulging," Conway said.