Children cheered on construction workers from afar at their preschool, All Five in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park, in mid-July. The project? To fulfill the school's mission to serve children for all five of their first years of life.
The program, which now serves students 2 years and 9 months to prekindergarten in its full-time program, will grow from 24 to 76 children this fall to enroll infants and toddlers. The infant and toddler program will be open to children 6 weeks old to 2 years old and will open Aug. 23, according to Karen Pace, All Five's strategic projects manager and the school's website. Enrollment is based on availability of space, with priority given to children of the Belle Haven and Ravenswood communities, including school district staff, as well as to siblings of current and former students, according to the school's website.
New buildings are set to be completed in late September, said Executive Director Carol Thomsen in a July 23 newsletter.
"As you know, serving children for all five of their first years has been the vision and plan for All Five for a very long time," Thomsen said. "The new facilities include an outdoor deck and canopy to ensure children from families of all socioeconomic levels experience a holistic learning environment."
Construction workers were originally set to retrofit three portable classrooms — through a lease agreement with the Ravenswood City School District — adjacent to its campus at 1391 Chilco St. Ultimately one of the original portables was not certifiable and the other two required extraordinary measures to be certified by the Department of State Architects, so instead of refurbishing the used portables, the expanded facilities will be new portable buildings, Pace said.
Thomsen had hoped to break ground on the project in March 2020 and expand the program later that fall. Many factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, ballooning costs and fundraising requirements, caused the setback, Thomsen said in an email Monday, July 26. The expansion costs increased from about $800,000 to $1.9 million, Pace said in a Monday email.
"We have raised over $1.7 million and continue seeking funding to close the gap between our expansion costs and funding," Pace explained.
"As we have navigated the unsettling events of this past year, including the pandemic-related health and financial challenges, facilitating an all-outdoor program during widely varied weather, and construction timing changes, our exceptional teachers and staff have been extraordinary in their dedication and thoughtfulness," Thomsen said. "I am grateful for the outstanding team of mission-driven educators here at All Five. They spend their days striving for every child to feel seen, connected, and challenged with trust at the center of all we do."
Families are desperate for infant and toddler care on the Peninsula, according to All Five.
Also of note in the newsletter: In June, the preschoolers had a chance to visit with chickens, rabbits, goats, and a miniature horse from Jasper Ridge Farm in Portola Valley for the first time since the pandemic began. For more on All Five, go here.