Forty-two years ago, the Starrett City Early Learning Center (ELC) opened its doors to its very first daycare students. At the time it was called Starrett Nursery and was held in a three bedroom apartment in H-6 with a total of 13 children two days a week. ELC Director, Susan Plesnitzer, still fondly remembers her ambitions and dreams for the little school because she started working there when it opened. “As mothers and fathers worked, they were given a peace of mind that their community offered daycare close to their home,” Plesnitzer said.
Holding onto a threadbare notebook with the names and notes of her very first students, Plesnitzer could clearly recall the nursery’s progression into a morning and afternoon program, and then it’s development into a full-time nursery in May 1976. “The Starrett Nursery was created as a not-for-profit organization with Recreations Rooms and Settlement, which is an agency for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York,” Plesnitzer said.
The rich history of ELC is what makes it a staple of the Spring Creek Towers’ community. The school focuses on providing top-notch interdisciplinary education, a stimulating cultural and academic environment, a place where child-ren can develop socialization skills, and the staff works with parents for the particular needs of the children.
Currently, the ELC has two loca-tions that are completely equipped for children ages two to five with all of their teachers being New York State Early Childhood Certified. ELC is open five days a week from 7:30 am to 6 pm, so parents can have peace of mind when dropping their kids off to school before work and picking them up after work. In addition, the school serves children a morning snack, a hot lunch, and an afternoon snack. All of the food provided is healthy, cooked within the school and some of the ingre-dients used in the meals are made from fresh herbs and produce grown in the ELC’s garden (which is located outside of their school at E1).
According to a New York State Child Care Demographics study from the Office of Children and Family Services, “During the past several decades, changes in the economy and family structure have brought more parents into the workforce resulting in an increased need for child care. In New York, over 800,000 children under the age of six years live in families with parent(s) in the household who work, indicating a substantial potential need for full-time child care (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey).”
Spring Creek Towers’ was ahead of the curve over four decades ago when they decided to implement a nursery in the community. The nursery was more than a daycare center; its expansion over the years allows residents an opportunity to enroll their children in a program that provides quality education and playful activities for the young children. Many years after its creation, Spring Creek Towers developed two school locations: 1325 Pennsylvania Ave (D5) and 125 Schroeders Avenue (E1), and named it Starrett Early Learning Center.
Both locations have class-rooms filled with age appropriate books, informational posters on reading, math, and science. The teachers educate the children using creative arts and crafts, historical class performances like their annual Black History month performance on prominent figures, and rhymes and songs to help reinforce lessons. “Children have always played an important role in the growth of Spring Creek Towers. They form the future of the development and a foundation from which it can grow,” Plesnitzer said.
The ELC also offers a summer day camp program where they encourage their students to apply their creativity and curiosity during all of their activities. Kindness, love, and warmth are always traits that are taught year round at ELC as well as continued academic focus. Registration must be made by June 8th and all fees are due by Wednesday June 27th. The summer camp will run from June 27th until August 17th. For more information contact 718-240-4530.
What started as a small endeavor has transformed over the years into an educational oasis for young children in the community. Plesnitzer has taught hundreds of children, and many times those children grow up raise their families in the community and register their children into the ELC, and so on and so forth for over four decades.
Photos by the Starrett Early Learning Center and Amanda Moses