A spot for small scholars

Two loc­al moms have opened the Port Rich­mond Academy with the goal of provid­ing little ones with a place to not only play, but learn. 

Learn­ing with love: Nicole Fish­er, co-founder of Port Rich­mond Academy, with her twin 2-year-old daugh­ters, Ry­ann and Reese, who are both en­rolled in the academy. STAR PHOTO / SAM NE­W­HOUSE

Two Port Rich­mond moms and lifelong friends re­cently poured their life sav­ings in­to open­ing a learn­ing cen­ter for young chil­dren in the neigh­bor­hood. 

The res­ult is the Port Rich­mond Academy, which opened in May and is now gear­ing up for its first of­fi­cial school year.

“We just thought, ‘We want to go back to work, but we also want to stay with our kids,’” said Nicole Fish­er, a co-founder of the academy, of how she and Erica Quinn came up with the idea for the pro­gram. “This way, we would be able to teach and stay with our kids.”

With a staff of sev­en, the Port Rich­mond Academy cur­rently has 33 loc­al chil­dren en­rolled, ran­ging in age from nine months to four years old. You may have seen staff at Port Rich­mond’s Second Sat­urday on Au­gust 10, hand­ing out bro­chures and of­fer­ing free face paint­ing to loc­al kids.

The pro­gram is unique in that it is cur­riculum-based and ad­heres to Pennsylvania state edu­ca­tion stand­ards. Chil­dren in the pro­gram en­gage in a struc­tured daily routine aimed at help­ing them learn so­cial, mo­tor and oth­er needed skills.

“We want this to be a learn­ing cen­ter, not a day­care,” Fish­er said. “We feel they can learn, even at the young­est age.”

That philo­sophy comes partly from their ex­per­i­ence as edu­cat­ors – both Quinn and Fish­er worked as teach­ers – and partly from their ex­per­i­ence as moms.

“I looked for oth­er day­cares for my kids, but I don’t want them sit­ting in front of a TV all day,” Quinn said.

The Academy is loc­ated in­side the former Kens­ing­ton Hy­geia Ice Com­pany at Miller and East Com­mis­sion­er streets, right be­hind the Port Rich­mond Po­lice Ath­let­ic League. It was last oc­cu­pied by the Phil­adelphia Wine Com­pany. Now, the vi­brantly colored and clean in­teri­or is sub­divided in­to play and edu­ca­tion­al areas for in­fants and tod­dlers.

Quinn and Fish­er tailored the academy to meet the needs of par­ents in the com­munity. They open at 6:30 a.m. for par­ents who have to get to work early, and of­fer part-time en­roll­ment for par­ents with that work sched­ule.

Ideas keep bub­bling up between Fish­er and Quinn for the fu­ture, the two said. They’re already plan­ning to start of­fer­ing “date night” in Septem­ber, an even­ing pro­gram where par­ents can drop kids off and go out for the even­ing. They may add “drop and shop” Sat­urdays, so par­ents can drop off their kids to take care of shop­ping. 

There are even ideas about of­fer­ing ex­er­cise classes and pro­grams for kids aged up to 14, like a movie night or tu­tor­ing classes.

“We knew there was a need for this, and we knew it would be suc­cess­ful,” Fish­er said. “In re­cent weeks, we’ve seen our en­roll­ment go up. Septem­ber’s al­most here and school’s in ses­sion soon. We’re ready to go.”

The buzz is seem­ingly spread­ing, with even preg­nant moth­ers tour­ing the academy so they can get their in­fants en­rolled, Fish­er said.

On Bel­grade Street, Lauren Hende­r­son, a loc­al mom out for a walk with her one-and-a-half year-old daugh­ter, said she may go back to work soon, and Port Rich­mond Academy is just the type of place she would like to send her child.

“I’d def­in­itely be more in­ter­ested in a learn­ing cen­ter than a day­care,” Hende­r­son said. “It’s great to know that something like that is in the neigh­bor­hood.”

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it www.portrich­mon­dacademy.com or call 215-423-6100. ••

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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