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. ••