In 1990, The National Association of State Boards of Education
published a report titled "Right from the Start", which described
certain characteristics that were critical to a high quality early
education program. The report stated that the program should
respond to a variety of needs such as:
Before and after school care
Social and emotional development
The program should provide an environment that recognizes
individual, cultural and linguistic diversity among children. It should
also actively involve and support parents as partners in the
development of their children. Last but not least, this program should
draw on the resources and expertise of all agencies and informal
networks in the community.
With this is mind, Carol Wheeler, then principal at Jack Jackter
Elementary School, formed an Early Childhood Committee consisting
of Arline Linger, members of the Board of Education, teachers, parents, and community members and consultants from the State Department of Human Resources and the State Department of Education. One of the findings of the group was that many children were left at home without proper supervision. They felt it made sense to offer a service that would provide high quality before and after school supervision in an environmentally safe facility. Thus, CASTLE, Colchester Alternative School-Age Total Learning Experience, was born.
This program opened in the summer of 1991 in Jack Jackter Elementary School using shared space. The program had four full time children enrolled for the summer. In the fall of 1991, before and after school care was provided to approximately fifteen children in the morning and twenty children in the afternoon. Jo Ann Hansen was the Director of the program, Barbara Briger was a teacher and Arline Linger worked as a volunteer in the program.
In 1992, Barbara Briger and Arline Linger took over as Co-Directors of the program. The program continued to double each year until the fall of 1993, when CASTLE moved to the Colchester Intermediate School. Since CASTLE now had space of their own, they were able to provide before and after school care for Kindergarten students. By the fall of 1994, there were approximately 134 children enrolled in the program. In addition, a waiting list of 20 children and growing existed.
In December of 1994, the Colchester Intermediate School notified CASTLE that some of the space they were currently using would need to be reclaimed for classroom instruction for the 95/96 school year. Due to the increasing student enrollment in Colchester, CASTLE was slowly being squeezed out of the school system. It was evident that by the fall of 1996, they would not have any space left in the school system to run the program. The mere thought of this was devastating to the Co-Directors and the Board of Directors of the program, and the parents whose children attended the program. It was clearly time for action!
In January of 1995, several parent committees were formed to identify various space options for the program and to evaluate the feasibility of each option. In March of 1995, Dr. Michael Puscas, President of Advanced Training Solutions was hired to help manage the project to acquire permanent CASTLE space. Dr. Puscas met with various town officials and developers in search of space for the program. He was introduced to Ron and Bruce Goldstein of the Paradise Agency, a Property Management and Real Estate business in Colchester, Their proposal was to build a 4500 square foot building on Halls Hill Road that CASTLE could lease. The rest is history!
Today we stand together in CASTLE's own facility, which was the first of its kind in Connecticut; a non-profit school-age childcare facility with its own dedicated space. The program, which opened on June 24, 1996, at this site, operated with a total of 26 staff members and provided full day summer camp for 85 children. In the fall of 1996, before and after school care was provided for 141 children, with a capacity to house 112 at any one time. Since CASTLE had always been an integral part of the school environment by participating in and supporting school activities, in addition to their own program, the new facility provided space for the Town of Colchester's Special Education pre-school APPLE program during its first year.
CASTLE continued to seek ways to improve the program and the services provided to the families enrolled in the center. In May 2002, CASTLE went through a self study process and achieved its goal of National Accreditation from the National School Age Childcare Alliance. Once the goal of accreditation was achieved, we began to pursue the notion to obtain ownership of CASTLE. Under the direction of Mr. Scott Boyden and the building committee, CASTLE purchased the building and property in February 2004 in the hopes for future expansion.
CASTLE's continued efforts to remain a quality program brought us to going through re-accreditation in December 2005 and 2009.
We pride ourselves on the fact that CASTLE continues to be
at capacity and continues to provide a service to the
community with an impressive number of families waiting
to get into the program. To open our doors even further,
CASTLE, at the suggestion of Superintendent Karen
Loiselle, ventured into the pre-school arena. With the
opening of a School Readiness program for 3 year olds,
we are able to serve 9 children throughout the community.
CASTLE also achieved national recognition in 2008 when
we were awarded NAEYC accreditation.