The Harmony Early Learning Center has only been open for two months, but it looks like the school is already making a positive impact on the Levittown community.
In April, a hearing for renovations on the property went before the Town of Hempstead board of zoning appeals. The request was approved in July and months of extensive renovations followed, with the learning center officially opening on September 30.
The property, located at 148 Centre Lane next door to Wisdom Lane Middle School, was the former "Yours Ours Mine" Community Center. The building remained vacant and was frequently vandalized, making it an unpleasant sight for the neighborhood.
In October 2013, Harmony was licensed by the NY State Office of Children and Family Services to offer full-day and half-day programs to children ages 18 mo- five years.
Patch spoke with co-owner and teacher Allison Ulin on Wednesday to get an update on how things are going so far at Harmony Early Learning Center.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I went to Molloy College and got my bachelors degree in childhood education 1-6 and then went to Adelphi University and got my Masters in early childhood development.
I’m a Bellerose resident, but I have in-laws who live just a few blocks away on Gardiners Avenue and my husband grew up in this town. That’s kind of how I got to know Levittown. I found this property when we were driving around, looking for properties.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of getting the building to where it is today?
The house was vacant for a while. It was a long process to get everything finished, from paperwork processing through the Town of Hempstead, which was all backed up due to Hurricane Sandy, and the parking variance through the board of appeals, which was approved in July.
We completely renovated everything from top to bottom: we put in the driveway for easy drop-off and pickup, we fenced in the yard, added parking spots, etc.
Q: How has the community response been so far?
It has been great, we’ve been received by the community really well. The neighbors are just stopping in to just say hi and to see how it looks and it’s clean, it’s new and it’s not where the kids are hanging out from the neighborhood anymore.
I think the nearby neighbors are just happy that it doesn’t look the way that it did before – boarded up. Kids were graffiting on the building, breaking the windows. That was before I owned it and that’s what I hear from the police, that they were getting into trouble.
Q: Was this always your goal, to open a school or learning center?
Oh, yeah, ever since I was little. I always said I wanted to own my own school. And I’ve worked a bunch of different day cares, I taught kindergarten in public schools and private schools and I just gathered things I liked and didn’t like along the way. And I just knew that one day, I was going to open my own thing. It was going to be all the things I like, and I’ve developed my own philosophy which, you know, allows the kids to develop the way in which they want to and be creative, with hands-on learning.
Q: What are your main services offered?
We are an early learning center, so we service ages 18 months to five years and we offer a variety of things: toddler programs, preschool and pre-k. We offer half-day or full-day options, part-time, full-time, so, two days a week, five days a week, etc.
We also have before and after-school care, so we open at 7 a.m. and we close at 6 p.m. So, if the parents need extra hours in the morning we some have teachers for the drop off at 7 a.m.
We have a lot of centers in the classroom. Every room has nine centers, like table toys, kitchen, dress up, books. We have technology, including iPads in the classroom.
Q: How many staff members and students do you have so far?
As we grow, as the amount of students grow, the staff grows. Right now, we have four people on staff. I am the main teacher in the toddler program.
We are licensed for 47 students. So, that is the goal, to be full. Right now, we are at seven. So, we are growing as we only opened up two months ago.
The word is spreading around Levittown, which is really great. We are trying to get involved with the chamber of commerce, trying to get our name out there but to also see what we can do for the community.
All of our toys are new and clean, and creative. We just encourage people to spread the word.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like residents to know?
We’re also a "music together" pre-school; I am a certified music specialist. So once a week the kids who are in the pre-school get “a music in movement” class with me. I play guitar, we do singing, play instruments. So, that’s something unique about us, which I love.
Then also, we do organic and all-natural snacks only.Which is a big popular thing with the parents - they don’t want the chemicals or the sugar.
So, we are a very all-natural, hands-on, learning by exploring private group pre-school.
Also, we are having an open house to the community. Anyone with children is welcome to come on Tuesday, Dec. 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. But at 6 p.m., we will be doing a free music demo class together.