The Grafton Center Playschool, located on the bottom floor of the Unitarian Church, was founded in 1957. Six members of the church felt a preschool for four-year-old children was needed in the community. The church offered its support by installing a second lavatory and giving the group $100.00 to launch the school. They used the money to buy art supplies and snacks for the children. Special tables with fold-up legs were ordered, one rectangular and one round, to emphasize different shapes. The school also acquired a bookcase and an easel, which are still in use today. Books, toys, and records were donated by parents and church members. Classes were held in the large room on the ground floor. This room was a large, sunny area perfect for the needs of the school, but a major inconvenience to the teachers. At the end of the week the teachers had to move all the equipment and tables to a closet to be stored until Monday because the room was used for church functions. In spring of 1957 the school opened with two teachers and an enrollment of twelve children. Tuition was $14.00 per month for a five-day program. The children enjoyed singing, dancing, marching, and games. The children carried to school each day their own mug for juice at snack time.
In 1959, Polly English became a teacher and enrollment increased to between sixteen and twenty children. In 1962 Polly English left teaching to become Chairman of the committee. Classes were reduced to three days a week. This was a low point in the school’s history with little support from the church. The school did however succeed in their initial goal of providing a community service that was much needed. Polly English remained a member of the board until 1999 when replaced by Bette Lotterman.

In 1963, Louise McHale became a teacher and remained for ten years which added continuity to the program. This was the first year that the school booklet was produced. During this time the church received a generous monetary gift from a church member. Part of this money was used to complete the bottom floor of the building dividing it into separate rooms to be shared by the church school and the Playschool. In 1965, the Playschool moved downstairs, thus solving the problem of storing the equipment each weekend. The school settled into its new location.

Jan Lucas took over as teacher in 1973. Tuition was $200.00 per year for a three-day program. It was at this time that Margy Davison became treasurer and managed the administrative duties of the school.

Jean Anderson was elected chairman of the board in 1975. In 1980 Sandra Anderson was head teacher. Joy Ashley became head teacher in 1982 and Director of the school shortly thereafter.

In 1985 new members joined the board. This group was Margy Davison as Treasurer, Polly English as Publicity Chairman, Linda Worthington as Secretary, and Linda Dion as president. Also on the board were Wana and Dick Perry, Lindsay Tosi, and the teachers were Joy Ashley, Judy Rynearson, and Anna Geer. Wana Perry has contributed her knowledge of government regulations and general administrative procedures. Dick Perry was in charge of building and grounds. This group was responsible for many changes and innovations in the program, including a progressive curriculum. The school became incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1986, operated independently from the church. This was necessary due to liability and insurance concerns. Linda Worthington had volunteered to be the Special Needs Advisor. Other more visible improvements were new playground equipment, child-sized handrails on the stairways, and new colorful rugs. A delightful letterhead, designed by Earl Granlund, for school stationary and newsletters was created at this time. All these improvements benefited the church school as well. Two new members joined the board as parent representatives: Susan Nicholson and Carolyn DiCicco.

In 1990, Bette Lotterman replaced Joy Ashley as the director/head teacher of the program. Marie Bergin, a teacher in the program for two years, requested a leave of absence in February 1991, followed by her resignation in May and replacement by Heather Wells. Heather left to finish her degree, was replaced by Patricia Beucler and returned in 1995 to fill the vacancy when Carol Freeman resigned. Cynthia Klein was hired in 1996 following the resignation of Heather Wells. Carol Freeman returned in September 1997 as a teacher to allow Bette more administrative time.

In the spring of 1997, the school achieved Accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children after undergoing extensive evaluation of the program. This certified compliance with the Academy’s criteria for high quality early childhood programs. In the summer of 1997, Bette over saw the completion of a new safer playground structure in compliance with new OCCS rules.

May 1999 Bette Lotterman resigned as director and was replaced by lead teacher Patricia Beucler. In the fall of 1999, to fill vacancies created by Bette and Cindy Klein’s departure, Anne Changaris and Kathryn Anderson joined our staff. Kathryn resigned in Dec. 2001, to complete her student teaching and receive her state teacher certification.

During the summer of 2000, the school continued to grow and change. With the financial help of CPC Circle of Friends, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Grafton & Upton, and Grafton Center Playschool a tot-sized bathroom and kitchen sink were constructed in Room II.

August 2000, with the reinstatement of an afternoon class, Suzanne Young joined our staff.In August 2001, Nancy Sjogren filled the vacancy caused by the departure of Carol Freeman. In May of 2003, Patricia Beucler resigned as director and was replaced by assistant director, Anne Changaris. In September 2003 Michelle Howarth, last year’s assistant teacher, assumed a teacher position at GCP. We feel proud of the progress the school has made. We have not forgotten the initial goal of the six women who wanted to provide a community service: “To help children make an important but fruitful start to their educational development.”

Thank you to Polly English and Linda Dion for the research.