future: Everyone was smiling
following the announcement of the acquisition of the Montessori School
facility by the YMCA Monday evening. Pictured are, front, left to right,
Erica Fields, Emma Kasarda, Heather Krueger, Kayla Lee, Y Early Learning
Academy Director, Aaron Adcock, Jane Delligati, Y Marketing Director, and
Shannon Spratley, YMCA Chief Operating Officer. Back row, Rich Gardner, Y
Board President, Keith Kegebein, Nicole Kegebein, Suzanne Versteeg Radzik, Y
Chief Financial Officer, Elizabeth Marks, Y Board member, Dave Kasarda Y
CEO, and Y Board members Mike Uzelac, Rob Dorsey, Jon Winey and Jim Anton.
(Tribune photo by Dana Gilbertson)
By MARGARET L.
The Duneland YMCA
has announced the purchase of the Chesterton Montessori School building and
property at 200 E. Burdick Rd., which will become the new home of Y early
learning programs. The facility is being purchased through the generosity of
Dr. John and Linnea Forchetti. The facility will have a new name, The
Forchetti Family YMCA Center for Early Learning, honoring the donors who
have made it possible.
was first made public at a meeting Monday evening with parents of current
Early Childhood Learning students. About 40 YMCA early childhood learning
parents were on hand to hear the momentous news. “This building will be here
for the community for the next 50 years or more,” said Dave Kasarda, Y CEO,
in making the announcement. “This is huge.”
The new site will
make it possible to expand the Y's early learning program and provides a
whole laundry list of amenities such as a kitchen, indoor and outdoor eating
areas, a multi-purpose room, a secure keyed entry, toilets in every
classroom, additional indoor play space, floor to ceiling windows and acres
of outdoor play space. The new Early Learning site is located in a
picturesque setting where nature abounds. Large, expansive outdoor spaces
provide classroom settings without walls, plentiful age-appropriate
playgrounds and space for sports.
"This is an
incredibly exciting time for the Duneland Family YMCA, and for the children
and families of the Duneland communities. It's an opportunity to increase
the quality of our care while doubling our capacity to serve children ages 6
weeks to 5 years. The YMCA provides a safe, nurturing environment while
promoting each individual child's social, emotional, physical and
intellectual development," said Kasarda.
Jim and Terry Cavallo built, owned and operated the Montessori School for 36
years. "Jim and I have been in education for nearly five decades; it's been
part of our whole lives. We believe the early education for each and every
child is the best gift that we could give them,” Terry Cavallo said. “We are
sad to be closing this chapter of our lives working directly with children,
but we feel confident that the staff of the Duneland YMCA Early Learning
Academy will use our former building to carry on early learning for even
more children in the Duneland communities for years to come, and we know
that our teachers will carry on Montessori education in a different location
under the care of a new owner."
The 14,000 sq. foot
facility is just 2 miles east of the current early learning center inside
Chesterton Middle School, Sharon Spratley, Y Chief Operating Officer, said.
The sprawling building and grounds includes 5.5 acres which will allow for
outdoor sports and recreation.
"We looked at this
opportunity solely to create the best possible environment for young
children,” Spratley added.
Much more than
simple day care, the Y's Early Learning Academy is the best of what research
and common sense tell us kids need: healthy beginnings; positive interaction
with caring adults; age appropriate learning activities; and plenty of time
for fun and making friends.
"At the Y, helping
kids and families thrive is at the heart of our mission to serve," said
Spratley. "This acquisition will allow not only program growth, but also a
means to upgrade educational ratings. Our involvement with Paths to
QUALITYTM means we are committed to providing a safe, nurturing and
professional environment where children can grow and learn." Presently, the
Early Learning Academy is operating as a level 3 Paths to QUALITYTM
Registered Ministry. When the Early Learning Academy moves to its new home
it will become an Indiana State Licensed Center and continue working towards
a Level 4 PTQ rating and National Accreditation, the State's highest rating.
The Duneland Family
YMCA Board of Directors has spent the last three years researching the needs
of the Duneland communities. A feasibility study conducted in 2018 indicated
that leaders of the Duneland communities place a high value on quality,
affordable, safe early childhood education representing a clear indication
that it was imperative that the Y Early Learning Academy find a permanent
home to continue their important work.
For the last 16
years the Duneland YMCA has been honored to share a joint vision and
partnership with the Duneland School Corporation to provide quality
education for all children under the age of five. Without the generosity and
partnership of the DSC, the YMCA would not have been able to serve thousands
feasibility study, Dr. John and Linnea Forchetti expressed an interest in
providing all children of the Duneland communities an equal opportunity to
have access to a safe, high quality learning environment to meet their
The Forchettis have
always been supportive of the Y. John served on the Y Board of Directors.
Their kids participated in Y swimming lessons at the first Y and later
enjoyed the outdoor pool at the present location.
Family YMCA is an important facet of the community," John said. "It's always
been a place where people can gather, and a safe place for Duneland children
to learn, grow and thrive. We know that early childhood education is the key
to success in life, and we're happy to be able to contribute to the new
location for the Y Early Learning Academy. We want our gift to benefit
Linnea pointed out
that many families and single parents struggle to provide high quality early
childhood education for their children. "That's where the Y steps in,” she
said. “At the Y Early Learning Academy, all children have access to early
childhood education in a safe, nurturing environment.’
commitment to the community and a willingness to share resources, a landmark
purchase like this would never be attainable. Without the generosity of
individuals like John and Linnea this wouldn’t be possible,” said Dave
Kasarda. “The Duneland Family YMCA and the families of the Duneland
communities will be forever grateful for the generous support of the
following the announcement centered around security, meal menus, and access
to community activities, like the splash pad in Chesterton Park and the
currently enrolled with the Y will be ‘grandfathered in”Kasarda said.
Enrollment will be opened up later this spring for additional students.
Additional staff will be hired over the summer, Spratley said.
acquisition of the property is set for June 4, Kasarda told the parents,
with occupancy set for the fall. “That day construction will begin to be
sure the Y meets state licensing standards,” Kasarda said. This is the
fourth childcare center he's been part of opening in his YMCA career and
Kasarda said he’s been extremely impressed by the exceptional skills of the
Duneland Y staff.
The current home of
the Early Learning Center, in Chesterton Middle School, is space the Y hopes
to continue to use for Y youth programming, until that space is needed by
the Duneland School Corporation.
"The DSC has
partnered with us for 19 plus years to build this early learning program,"
Kasarda said. "We're working with them on continued use of the space at
Parents burst into
a round of applause at the close of remarks and questions, and many left
with big smiles on their faces, thinking of the future.
The Y made the
announcement about the changes coming for the Early Learning Center in
stages Monday, first to staff at a meeting in the late afternoon, then to
parents of currently enrolled children at a meeting at 6 p.m.
The news, kept
under wraps while the transfer of property and the supporting donation from
the Forchetti’s was worked out, took many by surprise, but it is a happy
Staff are excited
to have the new, expanded space and all the program offerings it will make
possible. Parents and the community are excited for the educational
opportunities for their children and future generations.
announcement was made on the YMCA Facebook page, getting the message out to
parents unable to attend the meeting.
with joy, excitement and gratitude topping the list. "The Forchetti Family
has given our children a huge gift! Thanks Doc and Linnea!", said one. "This
is amazing news! I'm crying with joy," said another, along with "Early
childhood [education] is a great investment."
The Y has been
serving the Duneland communities for more than fifty years focusing on youth
development, healthy living and social responsibility to enrich lives and
make Y programs and services available to all. They've partnered with local
and regional organizations to provide better outcomes for youth, families
and seniors in Duneland.
The Board of
Directors and leadership of the Y would like to thank the Duneland School
Corporation, the Forchetti Family, past and present parents and program
participants, and Jim and Terry Cavallo for supporting its efforts.
information about the Forchetti Family YMCA Center for Early Learning
contact Shannon Spratley, (219) 921-0183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
information about the Duneland Family YMCA, contact Dave Kasarda, (219)
926-4204 or email@example.com