By Carlee Frank

School has just started, and all across the Springville school district, kids are waiting at bus stops with backpacks and lunches in hand ready for school. However, these children won’t be the only students this year; Early Bird is also in session.

This year, the Early Bird Childcare Center is starting its eleventh year at 243 West Main Street. Early Bird offers universal pre-kindergarten and day care to children in the area, as well as to children at its Arcade, NY location. This wonderful preschool and day care program began 49 years ago when the founder and owner Pat Marcello become a teacher.

As soon as she completed her degree in education, Marcello became a Springville kindergarten teacher. After she was tenured, she left to raise her family, fully intending to come back when her children were old enough. While raising her children, she had started a preschool program in her home.

“I thought I was going to go back,” Marcello said. “Then teacher friends asked if I’d think about still teaching preschool and day care. I said ‘day care? I don’t do day care, I teach.’”

However, Marcello considered their proposal and enrolled in a conference in Washington D.C. about day care and how it dovetails with preschool. She said she loved the premise and started a program in a new home in Arcade.

From that point on, Early Bird Childcare Centers opened at multiple locations including Kissing Bridge, Boston and St. Aloysius Regional School. While only the Springville and Arcade locations are still open, Marcello said she is more than happy with the Springville Early Bird building.

“The people that built it are wonderful, and it is so amazing,” Marcello said.

There are large windows in the hallways looking into cozy classrooms, an indoor playground and decorations on every wall. Early Bird takes care of children ages 6 weeks to about 5th grade. There are rooms for school-age children, infant rooms, “waddler” rooms, toddler rooms and universal pre-kindergarten classrooms.

UPK is state funded preschool that allots 60 spots for children by a lottery system. Marcello said it is a great resource for parents who work but still want an education for their children. Early Bird also offers free screening to students.

“If they need special services, we can give them to them,” Marcello noted, “We have speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists come to the school.”

Early Bird also offers a summer program for school-age children.

“It’s a fun school- we have a curriculum, and do fun things like go to the pool and bowling,” Marcello said, “We can help children who need assistance with math or reading over the summer.”

No matter what age group, Early Bird offers a fun curriculum for everyone. Each classroom has an individualized calendar with letters of the month, as well as themed learning units like Health and Fitness day, Happy Grandparents Day and Apple Week.

“They will be making homemade apple sauce, and grandparents get to come in and read for Grandparents Day,” Marcello explained.

She said the program wouldn’t be possible without her hardworking staff. About 25 teachers work with students each day at Early Bird. They decorate, play with the children and most importantly, Marcello said, care about education.

“We have been blessed, so blessed, to have people that love Early Bird enough to want to stay and be here,” Marcello said.

Marcello’s daughter, Colleen Brecker, director of Early Bird, also works at the Springville location. Brecker is musically inclined and pursued a career in voice and dance for years, but moved back to the area to help her parents. She has a Masters in Administration and Marcello said she has been so helpful. Marcello’s granddaughter also attends Early Bird.

“How lucky am I to have my kids around? Not many of my friends have all of their kids with them,” Marcello said.

She said it is very important to prepare children for kindergarten. Early Bird has a pre-reading program to introduce students to English.

Marcello said students leave feeling like they know everything. They may not, but they have been endowed with a lot of self-confidence. That is the goal of Early Bird –to enrich kids and prepare them for life ahead.

“My big goal for preschool children is to leave here with good self-esteem; leave here feeling good about yourself, loving life and loving school,” Marcello said.

For more information check out their Facebook page.