New life for old Northern New York school as child care center

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 3:22 PM EDT
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TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (WCAX) - An old school in Northern New York will have a new life as a child care center, helping to fill a pressing need in the community.

A few months ago, the longstanding St. Mary’s School in Ticonderoga shut its doors for good, shocking the community. However, now there is a new chance to breathe new life into the building by transforming it into a child care center.

“We have identified over 100 kids over the age of 5 that really need child care in this area,” said Donna Wotton, the executive director of the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance, or TRA.

TRA was awarded almost $250,000 in federal funding to address the child care gap for the town that currently only has 16 spots open for roughly 300 children.

“We applied through the Northern Border Regional Commission grant for child care and we received that grant and now we are ready to move forward on the building. We are so excited... the whole community is excited and so involved in this project... this is truly a community project,” Wotton said.

Through the grant, Wotton says TRA will establish a child care center that can serve roughly 52 kids under the age of 6. She adds the center will occupy a portion of a former Catholic school in the town.

“Relieved that the building is going to be used to serve the needs of children and their families and grateful and excited for that same reason,” Wotton said.

Father Chris Looby is the pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Ticonderoga. He says the building where the child care center will be housed used to be a St. Mary’s School.

“For so many years, over 60 years, was the center of activity for this parish. It educated thousands of children,” Looby said.

Looby says the school shut its doors after the school year’s conclusion in May due to low enrollment. He says the closure was tough for the community and the church, as it had served as a key educational institution in the town for years.

During that same time, Wotton says TRA was struggling to find a suitable building for a child care center because of high costs, making the former school a perfect match.

“When the news got around that the school was closing, people were upset and upset wondering what to do next. And luckily that question was answered right away for us when we were approached by TI-Alliance to have the day care here,” Looby said.

Ensuring that a building that has served as an integral part of the community will continue to do so for the next generation of New Yorkers.

“That was going to be the tragic part was not having children in this building and finding a good use for it. And the parish has been fantastic in wanting to support the community in some way that was always their goal and having all of these kids back in this building will be fantastic for everybody in the community,” Wotton said.

She says some construction still needs to be done, like installing an exit door in one of the classrooms and additional ventilation systems.

Wotton expects pre-registration for the child care center to open in October, and for the doors to be open to children, once again, early next year.