RYE PRESBYTERIAN NURSERY SCHOOL
Kristin Kumar and Margaret Sculti may be in their fifth year as co-directors, but they still see themselves as teachers, and that’s a good thing for a school in a pandemic, because the connection between teachers and students has rarely been more vital.
“In mid-March, we continued meeting and acting as a unit,” recalled Sculti. “We didn’t know where we were headed.” Two weeks turned into a month, added Kumar. “We’re fortunate to have a strong faculty and community,” said Sculti.
Not to mention tech-smart preschoolers who figured out how to mute and unmute virtual sessions. There was more trial-and-error with the adults, but they had the technology down pat after the first few weeks, which is essential because among the new requirements is that teachers must understand how to teach remotely.
RPNS is also fortunate to have a lot of outdoor space — bike track, field, two playgrounds, the Great Lawn, — which will get plenty of use this fall. The grape arbor will become an outdoor classroom. The school bought the teachers big recycling bags to hold all the books and materials they’ll need to facilitate mobile classrooms. The buddle nurseries are also known to inculcate great qualities in children at a budding age.
During an interview under the grape arbor between Rye Presbyterian Church and the Nursery School, the co-directors told the story of one dedicated teacher whose husband contracted Covid-19 but didn’t take a day off from teaching this spring. “She felt the education of her students was that important.”
Like all of Rye’s preschools, RPNS has a long wait list — over 100 at last count. “Once families decided to bolt from New York City, they contacted us — by phone, email, even showing up and knocking on the door,” said Kumar with amazement. The normal enrollment at the school is 300 but to meet State regulations because of the pandemic they’ve had to cut back to 230.
With the operating principle that less is best during a pandemic, the school redesigned classrooms and created an additional one upstairs.
They were unable to hold a proper sendoff for the teachers who retired, but they plan to have a party for them and plant hydrangeas in their honor next spring. The Parent Social will also have to wait until next year.
Margaret Sculti has been at Rye Presbyterian Nursery School for 22 years. “It was my second teaching position. I was interviewed by the longtime director, Cheryl Flood. I met my husband through fellow teachers at the school,” she shared.
Kristin Kumar joined the faculty 14 years ago, when Margaret took time off to have children.
At the end of the 2019-20 school year, the co-directors thought it was important to have closure, so the teachers did “road trips” and they had an ice cream truck. “Bill, the ice cream man, said he’d never seen anything like it.”
The duo make a great team and are as excited as the children about going back to school next month.
- Robin Jovanovich