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Kingsport's first preschool searching for alumni

March 24th, 2014 9:41 am by Leigh Ann Laube

Kingsport's first preschool searching for alumni

Windy McReynolds plays with Malik Jones at Saint Paul's Day School & Kindergarten recently. Photo by David Grace.

In its 77-year history, it's not known exactly how many children have attended St. Paul's Day School & Kindergarten, but that number is certainly in the thousands. Staff at Kingsport's first and longest-running preschool want to locate as many of them as possible.

"We want to reconnect with former students, celebrate their accomplishments, see the successes they've had and reconnect them to the Day School," said Program Director Glenna M. Depew. The creation of the Friends of St. Paul's Day School Alumni Association is so new that St. Paul's staff is just now starting the process of forming a committee to track down former students.

"We will canvass our current students, because we have second- and third-generation families. We will also canvass parishioners of the church," Depew said.

The kindergarten that eventually became St. Paul's Day School was started in 1937. By the 1938 school year, there were eight children enrolled and the children met in the home of their teacher. The following year, the kindergarten was moved to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where it remained for several years until gasoline rationing made it impossible for parents to take their children to the church. The school reopened in the late 1940s and, by the fall of 1948, enrollment was at 40. In 1953, the school was renamed St. Paul's Church Kindergarten. A year later, the name was changed to St. Paul's Parish Day School. Eventually, the name was changed to St. Paul's Day School & Kindergarten, and today the school has about 50 students in five classrooms.

Once the alumni are located, St. Paul's plans to have a homecoming-type celebration sometime in the future, Depew said.

"If they'd like to get in touch with us, please do. We'd love to know their stories and hear their memories," she said.

During the upcoming Week of the Young Child, set for April 6-12, students at St. Paul's will participate in the decades-old Hat Parade, an event where students and their parents create silly hats at home. At 11 a.m., April 11, students (and their parents) will parade around the block wearing their hats.

About 10 years ago, St. Paul's created the International Luncheon to be held in conjunction with the Hat Parade.

"Families sign up to bring a dish reflective of their culture, or the culture of their home," Depew said. Weather permitting, the luncheon will be held in the picnic area after the Hat Parade. In case of inclement weather, the luncheon will be held in the church fellowship hall.

Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest early childhood education association, with nearly 80,000 members and a network of over 300 local, state, and regional affiliates. The purpose of Week of the Young Child is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.

St. Paul's has a reputation for engaging children in developmentally appropriate activities. It's this reputation that has kept the school's doors open for so long.

"They have always been so focused on children and quality care, providing the best care and educational experiences for children," Depew said, pointing out that teacher Nancy Britton, in the late 1930s, had organized activities to stimulate the children's cognitive and emotional growth.

"She was doing things that we're still doing now," Depew said. "They were ahead of their time, providing children with a great start in their early education."

These learning experiences are provided in a Christian environment.

"We've managed to do the Christian environment while having Hindu kids here and Muslim kids here," said the Rev. Edward J. "Jay" Mills III.

St. Paul's Day School is open to all children, not just those who are members of the church.

"We try to get a broad spectrum of cultures, socioeconomically, religious, all different cultures and backgrounds," Depew said.

Here are some other local events during Week of the Young Child:

The Children's Advocacy Center will hold its April 2014 Quarterly Meeting from 8:30 a.m. to noon, April 8, at The Sullivan County Regional Health Department, 154 Blountville Bypass, Blountville. Guest speakers Angela Wills Sells, Bobby Laws and Sarah Jackson will present "Surviving the Secret." The event is open to anyone at no charge. For more information, call 279-1222.

"Early Literacy and School Readiness" training will be held at 12:30 p.m., April 10. Sponsored by Kingsport City Schools and geared toward child care providers, directors, teachers and assistants, the training will be held at the KCS Administrative Support Center, 400 Clinchfield St. For more information, send email to bwarner@k12k.com .

For more information about the Friends of St. Paul's Day School Alumni Association, call 246-9552 or send email to stpaulsdayschool@earthlink.net.

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