It’s not often an early childhood program has the opportunity to create a facility wholly designed to support young children and families.
But the Guild of St. Agnes always responds to community needs, right down to its convenient new location.
“We heard from Worcester State University about their difficulties hiring staff due to the lack of childcare in the area,” says Guild Executive Director Sharon MacDonald.
Fortunately, the Guild was able to purchase the site of the former Colonial Bowling Alley, located just a mile from WSU on Mill Street.
Strike! Bowling alley transformed into classrooms, play spaces and offices
The Guild’s Mill Street location, expected to open in the spring of 2023, will include an infant care room with space for seven, two toddler rooms with space for 18, and seven preschool classrooms for 130 students. Young ones will also enjoy a gymnasium and outdoor playground area.
The Mill Street location will also feature spaces for staff and interns, including four offices and a conference room that will double as a classroom for Worcester State University student interns.
In total, the former Colonial Bowling Alley will serve 155 children and employ 35 staff and interns.
The space features large windows to allow for natural light. The wood flooring used for Colonial’s bowling lanes will be incorporated as wall hangings.
The Guild of St. Agnes: a community powerhouse since 1913, now serving 1,800 youth
The numbers are impressive:
- Eight free-standing early education and care centers plus six programs housed in public schools and an additional 135 family childcare centers.
- Four school-age afterschool centers.
- More than 1,800 youth served at any given time.
Located across Worcester, Charlton, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner and Webster, the Guild services are licensed by the MA Department of Early Education and Care, and childcare centers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). All preschool classrooms have a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in early education or a related field, and many assistants have associate degrees or are currently enrolled in college.
“Our mission is to provide a safe learning environment and affordable childcare that’s developmentally appropriate,” says MacDonald.
The Guild encourages children’s progress through detailed assessments that help educators match activities to each child’s strengths, needs, and interests while tracking progress over time. Parents can also add supplemental services for their children, such as nutritious meals and behavioral health services and referrals.
“Parents know their children are safe and getting the services they need, so they can hold jobs,” she says. “Everything we do is in response to the needs of kids and families.”
The Guild and Edward Street: local experience at work
The Guild of St. Agnes and Edward Street, founded in 1913 and 1883, respectively, have been collaborating to serve children and families for decades. Most recently, Edward Street helped the Guild and other providers meet COVID regulations.
“Edward Street was critical, particularly in the early stages, helping providers like us navigate the pandemic,” says MacDonald. “They’re an incredible partner that pulls people and organizations together to create solutions.”