Even though Watch Me Grow Nursery School has been closed since September due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irene, former students and parents of children who attend the local school overwhelmingly showed their support in this week's Reader's Choice poll.
Watch Me Grow is one of the oldest continuous early childhood education centers in Union County. Although the Walnut Avenue school is affiliated with Temple Beth El Mekor Chayim, it serves children of all faiths, according to Tamara Ruben, the director of education.
"This is a very dynamic and small and very special nursery school," Ruben said. "It's been around from many years. Even though it's a temple, we accept kids of all faiths."
When Hurricane Irene tore through Cranford, floodwaters destroyed the interior of the nursery school. Nearly all of the furniture and equipment had to be discarded. The school has been closed since the storm hit.
"We were devastated in September when we had the flooding and everything got ruined. We used the following months to say to ourselves, 'let's use this to our benefit,'" Ruben said.
So she and members of the staff visited other nursery schools to see what kind of equipment they were using and how their centers were structured. They brought that knowledge back to Watch Me Grow and used it to renovate and update the facility.
"We threw out everything and are starting completely from new," Ruben said of the school's post-flood efforts. Everything from the play areas to the classroom space is new.
Ruben said the nursery school has been open for more than 50 years.
"Hundreds and hundreds of kids went through our program," she said, adding that many of the school's graduates have returned years later to visit their old teachers and thank them for the foundation they provided for them during their earliest years.
Watch Me Grow received 4,102 votes in Patch's Reader's Choice poll - a total of 51 percent of the votes. Ruben, now in her seventh year at the school, said she was "touched by the overwhelming support of the voters," but not surprised because of the number of years the school has been open.
On March 13, Watch Me Grow will host an open house to celebrate the school's grand re-opening. The event will take place at the school, 338 Walnut Ave., from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and again from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Here are the complete results from this week's Reader's Choice poll:
- Helen K. Baldwin Nursery School at First Presbyterian Church 174 (2%)
- Calvary Lutheran Nursery School 105 (1%)
- Geraldine Nursery School 1838 (23%)
- The Jardine Academy 6 (0%)
- Rainbow Academy 1618 (20%)
- St. Michael's School 44 (0%)
- Trinity Episcopal Day School 33 (0%)
- Watch Me Grow Nursery School 4102 (51%)
Total votes: 7920