By Marilyn Busch
Nestled in a tree-lined drive just off of Route 116/Pleasant View Avenue in Smithfield is The Little Village Schoolhouse. The modest brick and stone building is filled to the brim with the sound of children’s laughter, music, language and learning every weekday starting at 7 a.m.
Open since 2006, The Little Village Schoolhouse caters to area pre-school and kindergarteners, ages 3 to 6, and is accredited by Rhode Island Department of Education and Department of Children, Youth and Families for their Educational and Common Core curriculum.
Proving the adage true in that “it takes a village to raise a child” the Little Village Schoolhouse boasts an impressively low ratio of one teacher to every eight students, ensuring that each “little villager” receives one-on-one attention from the professionally trained staff.
“There are no tears upon arrival in the morning or during the day,” states the school’s website and that is exactly what School Director Meghan Demarais envisioned when she took over the school this past spring. “For 10 years The Little Village Schoolhouse philosophy was to be an anxiety and stress-free space, with no time outs or yelling,” explains Desmarais, (or “Mrs. Meghan” as she is better known to her students.) “We talk to our children, treat them with respect and we allow them to learn through their mistakes.”
In addition to addressing the students in soft tones, the staff is known to bring the conversation to the child’s eye level and often share hugs, applause and celebratory high fives. “The children are guided, appreciated, and kept safe,” says Desmarais, “because that is what children deserve and need.”
Prior to directing The Little Village Schoolhouse, Desmarais, a 2004 graduate of Rhode Island College’s sociology program, first worked as a behavioral therapist with local autism spectrum service organizations. She then went on to spend five years as a social worker counseling foster families. After taking a break to stay home with her second child, she started teaching again this year at a local preschool when she heard about this opportunity.
“It was always my dream since I was 21 to own my own school,” Desmarais explains, “and this past March I heard through the grapevine that The Little Village Schoolhouse was up for sale.”
She leapt at the opportunity to take over as both owner and director of the existing programs. “Since I have always worked with children who have developmental delays, I have a passion for different learning styles. The Schoolhouse has always had the motto ‘learn through laughter’,” says Desmarais, “I am so proud to continue this in our Little Village community.”
While she and her staff show immense patience and understanding, she is quick to clarify that the Little Village Schoolhouse is indeed, not a daycare, pointing out that all are licensed teaching professionals. Their training, plus the excellent 1 to 8 ratio of staff to student stands out as one of the school’s merits.
“I truly think that most centers are so large in class size and the children do not get the attention they need,” says Desmarais, “in our school even if a child is having a bad day there is always someone to give that child some kind of attention that they are looking for.”
In addition to their core pre-school and kindergarten curriculum, The Little Village Schoolhouse also offers weekly drumming, Spanish, and yoga classes as well as bi-weekly music programs. The school itself begins at 9 a.m. and kindergarten dismissal is at 3 p.m., but also offers extended hours, opening at 7 a.m. and not closing until 6 p.m. The children’s extended families are invited into the school often, through events like Grandparent’s Day, Thanksgiving dinner and a monthly family engagement program.
With what sounds like an incredibly full schedule, Desmarais is happy to be at the center of it all.
“I am there all the time, I’m on the floor and I hang out with the kids on the play yard, lunch time or even nap time, I’m there to rub someone’s back. This has been a dream of mine and now I am finally living it. “
The Little Village Schoolhouse is located at 170 Pleasant View Ave. More information about enrollment and the school’s programs can be found online at thelittlevillageschoolhouse.com or by calling (401) 231-7446.