Wallkill Nursery School facing closure due to dwindling enrollment after start of UPK
The Wallkill Nursery School has taught children in the Ulster County Hamlet of Wallkill for 45-years, but that may soon change.
“We have about a third of the kids we usually have,” says Wendy Byrne, a teacher at the school for 17 years.
The small school on Bridge Street attributes its dwindling enrollment to the unintended effects of the Wallkill Central School District’s new Universal pre-K program. They say last year, they had 24 children enrolled and four full-time staff members, but recently had to lay off an employee to make ends meet. Staff say even now, they may be forced to shut down.
“It’s scary. We’re going on a month-to-month basis and at any point it could just be done,” says staff member Alexis Farias.
The private program has two, half-day pre-school classes for children ages 3 and 4. Staff started a GoFundMe online and hope raising awareness to their plight might help.
“Forty-five years and then poof, gone. That would be devastating,” says Farias. “We’re doing everything we can to keep it going, to keep these students here where they’re happy.”
The Hamlet of Wallkill has roughly 2,000 residents and is just over three miles, according to 2020 Census Bureau data, but the school also serves the surrounding communities including Pine Bush, Valley Central, Walden, New Paltz and Plattekill.
Staff say the school wanted to participate in the district’s UPK program but couldn’t meet several requirements like adding a second bathroom and kitchen.
“It’s terrible, it’s sad,” says Bynre. “Just the thought of closing is heartbreaking.”