Three Decades of Evolution in Family Life as Reflected in the Development of Prime Time Early Learning Center.
I need to begin with this disclaimer, I am commenting on my observations of family life in the northeast from 1980-2010 as seen through the eyes of professionally trained young mother. The women’s movement propelled this generation into colleges and the workforce in record numbers. We wanted it all, education, jobs, marriage and families. Education, jobs, marriage, and divorce, and the migration of our families and friends often created a dilemma – who will care for the children when we worked ?
In the 80’s there were a few “day care centers” designed mainly for poor families. The first Prime Time (PTELC) did not care for days, but offered a learning and loving environment for middle and upper income parents who wanted their children to be loved and developmentally stimulated to be ready for future learning experiences. My husband Joel and I searched our county visiting the available centers and then at potential sites. We learned of a part time Montessori nursery school that was closing in the bottom of the public library in Upper Saddle River,NJ. We had to present our plan to the town council who assured us that this undertaking was bound to fail since mothers in this neighborhood of 1-5 acre zoning either did not work or had nannies etc. to look after their children. But the library needed the rent revenue and we got a 3 year lease.
Needless to say this venture opened in 1983 and was a huge success. Many mothers wanted a program that was open for a 12 hr. day, year round.They did work and/or they did want exactly what we were offering their children- social and intellectual stimulation.
We realized our lease was going to expire and the library wanted to reclaim this space for their growing programs. This brought us to another barrier, in N.J. there was no zoning that listed child care as an acceptable use ! We were neither a residence, business nor a school. That’s why most centers were located in churches or municipal buildings. We wanted to open in a business zone convenient to the homes,workplaces or commuting areas used by our families. We had to wage wars for exemptions from the zoning codes in many areas until the state recognized the existence of this new service business.
This first school finally relocated and Prime Time Early Learning Center was sought after by corporations as an amenity for its skilled employee recruitment. Our Middletown N.Y. center opened in 1993 in a corporate center and our Paramus N.J. school in a class A office building. We had several small centers on site for individual companies in the 90’s when there was huge competition for skilled workers.
In the new century centers had to get bigger and more sophisticated to accommodate the growing needs of families. Prime Time offered before and after school care, summer camps and enrichment programs. We have added on site Education Directors and a Regional Education Specialist who keeps Prime Time Early Learning Center current on curriculum that prepares our teachers and students for future success .
This article just brought us so many nice memories,
I wonder where the next decade will bring us. We have built an excellent management team that will help us meet the next challenge.
Author – Rochelle “Ricci” Wasserman