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Preschoolers adjust to new schools after Chesterbrook closes

Lengthened commute among challenges

Families have scrambled to find new school homes for their preschool children since Chesterbrook Academy in Sugar Grove closed its doors in February.
Families have scrambled to find new school homes for their preschool children since Chesterbrook Academy in Sugar Grove closed its doors in February.

SUGAR GROVE – Parents of Sugar Grove preschoolers weren’t whining, crying or screaming, but it’s understandable why they would have thrown temper tantrums after learning that Chesterbrook Academy in Sugar Grove was closing for good Feb. 2.

They initially received the bad news Jan. 5, leaving them with less than a month to find new schools for their young children. It also didn’t take long for them to realize there wasn’t a solution close to home in Sugar Grove.

The Sugar Grove Park District’s Before & After School C.A.R.E. Program provides a safe, supervised environment for kids, but is not a preschool.

Sarah Dallal, owner of Sarah’s Little Munchkins Home Day Care and Preschool in Sugar Grove, received about eight to 10 inquiries for day care, but her facility already was full.

Brightest Stars Preschool in Sugar Grove offers only 2.5-hour daily sessions.

“I got a lot of phone calls right away after they found out Chesterbrook was closing,” owner Amy Peters said. “But our program is part time, so those people were scrambling to find day care, but we didn’t really pick up any new people because they needed all-day care.”

In an email, Chesterbrook spokeswoman Kerry Owens said the Sugar Grove location closed because of low enrollment. She said that there were only about 70 preschoolers, filling less than half the school.

Parents were offered a 20 percent tuition discount, which would be honored through June 29, to transfer to other Chesterbrook locations, such as Oswego, St. Charles and Wheaton, but the lengthy drive to those communities, as well as the fact that tuition is more costly outside of the Sugar Grove location, dissuaded most from pursuing that option.

At least one Sugar Grove resident, Sarah Kolkman, took Chesterbrook up on the offer since she works near its Wheaton location. She said tuition was higher in Wheaton compared with what she was paying in Sugar Grove. Ultimately, it didn’t matter because it wasn’t a good fit for her daughter.

“It was like a family at Chesterbrook in Sugar Grove where everyone knew everyone and it was warm and an inviting atmosphere,” Kolkman said. “At Wheaton, they were all super professional, but my daughter wasn’t getting the social interaction with those she knew.”

Her daughter did find a number of former classmates and teachers at The Goddard School of North Aurora, which welcomed almost 30 former Chesterbrook kids and also hired members of the Chesterbrook staff.

“I like Chesterbrook a lot, but I’m not sure if the Sugar Grove community was big enough to support it,” said Paul Savill, on-site owner of The Goddard School of North Aurora. “We got 28 kids from there in February and we hired some of their teachers so the kids are seeing a lot of familiar faces and it’s been a nice transition.”

Savill said his phone was ringing almost nonstop after the news broke that Chesterbrook was closing.

“We literally had people calling us within half an hour and then come in the next day for tours and they jumped on any open spots,” Savill said. “It’s especially tough with those with little kids. There are not a lot of open spots out there and those that were were all snatched.”

Sugar Grove resident Jennifer Kufel’s biggest challenge was finding a day care center that would take her 5-year-old to John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove. Fortunately, La Petite Academy of Aurora agreed to do it for her.

“They were super gracious and added my daughter to the bus route to bring her to John Shields and no other day care would do that,” Kufel said. “They were super helpful, so I’ve been really happy even if it was temporary filler before our nanny arrived.”

Another Sugar Grove resident, Meg Junk, was in the process of sending her son to Chesterbrook when she found out it was closing.

“(We wanted to) get him more acclimated and prepped for kindergarten,” Junk said. “This was so disappointing to hear. It was also our plan for kindergarten transportation, so we’re pretty concerned with our future options and we’re not even there yet. I can’t imagine if we only had one month to figure this out.”

There were other children who found a new preschool at La Petite Academy, but the school would not divulge how many.

While families have found places such as The Goddard School and La Petite Academy, it hasn’t necessarily been the ideal solution, namely because of location.

Chesterbrook offered convenience for Sugar Grove residents. Now that chaotic morning commute is taking them into additional traffic and their money away from Sugar Grove while a building sits empty behind Jewel-Osco.

“It definitely takes more time to get out there and Chesterbrook is in my backyard, five minutes from home,” said Sugar Grove resident Colleen Quinlan-Wehrmann, whose daughter now attends The Goddard School. “It just would’ve been nicer if we would’ve known sooner and had more time to make a decision.”

Regardless of the frenzied transition, all appears to be well for Quinlan-Wehrmann and, most important, her daughter, Kristen.

“She’s with the same kids she’s known since she was 2, so we didn’t have to have change that was so drastic to really impact the kids,” he said. “All in all, we’ve been happy with the transition.”

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