This time last year, Castleton University had begun development on its well-received renovation plans for some of the college’s historic sites, including the President’s House and Granger House. Now, progress on both projects has come to a grinding halt.
Plans for a new daycare center at the site of the President’s House were first introduced in the fall of last year as an interactive aid for the new early childhood and special education majors; however, Castleton’s recent change in presidency on top of its pandemic response has put a strain on the university’s capabilities.
Richard Reardon, director of the education department, says the vast changes in Castleton’s climate meant that tough decisions had to be made regarding the rather costly daycare center and what the future of the department may look like.
“We’ve started our new early childhood program, so we sort of saw [the daycare center] as a really nice match because we’d be able to make some connections with the community and be able to provide some professional development and resources to the local childcare centers,” said Reardon. “Well, we got together and said, ‘There’s no reason we still can’t do that, even without a center.’”
Having already received a fair amount of grant money, the department has decided to gather its resources and work on becoming “a hub” of support to the local childcare community.
“Let’s use our education department, let’s use our brand new hire in early childhood, let’s use the connections we made already to get some additional supports out to the community,” said Reardon emphatically.
While the department is looking and listening for ways to assist the local childcare community, both students and staff of the education department hope this is not end of the road for the interactive learning center.
Ashley Carey, a multidisciplinary studies major, argues there simply isn’t enough daycares in the area and hands-on experience is necessary for studying educators.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the nursing department in Jeffords—they have a little hospital. Obviously that’s fake, but they need the hands on interaction to learn what their profession will be like. The same goes for educators. Learning about teaching kids is much different from actually teaching kids,” said Carey. “I hope they do it in the future.”
In addition to the now-kiboshed daycare center, renovations on the home of the future president—The Granger House—have slowed as well.
Dean of Students Dennis Proulx says that while the university searches for a new president, most plans have been put on hold since the college doesn’t know what their residential needs might be.
“We’ve completed phase one and phase two which were painting up the place, repairing the ceiling that was leaking, repairing the roof that was leaking… Recently, in prep for the Presidents’ house we redid all the electric and we did some work on the boiler. That kind of stopped there with that,” said Proulx.
The building itself sits in a historic district, so the university has been working closely with Vermont Historical Preservation to ensure the safe excavation and remodeling of the site.
Matthew Moriarty, professor of archeology, has been using the Granger House property as a learning tool for his students, Proulx added. He and a crew of students and local historians have been excavating the grounds around the house to see what they can discover.
While students and faculty of the education department are hopeful for the daycare’s eventual resurrection, Proulx relayed that the current President’s house will still be an active part of Castleton’s educational programs.
“The back porch [of the President’s House] is going to be used a classroom next semester. Right now we’re using it as meeting space,” said Proulx. “In the meantime, until we have a new president, the main house will probably just remain as is—to be determined.”