February is the month of love.
Last week was a profoundly sad and nerve-wracking week for the families, staff and leadership of Georgetown Hill following the devastating fire on the evening of January 27. We have lost our physical home- our quirky, cozy, not-too-fancy home of thousands of children and teachers since 1998. Indeed, the loss has hit us more than we could have imagined.
So, where is the love? Oh friends, it is here…
- It is families and community members, standing next to us in the parking lot of 850 Nelson Street, sharing tears and hugs all night long, bringing donuts and hot chocolate, while our beloved school lit up the night
- It is the first responders, from the City of Rockville, Montgomery County and neighboring communities, who fought to save our home and assured that no one was hurt
- It is the families, who missed work or arranged temporary care for their children all week while we hustled to find new homes for them at our sister schools. We are thrilled and humbled that 90% of our families have decided to follow their teachers and friends to other wonderful, though less-convenient Georgetown Hill campuses starting next week.
- It is the Woodley Gardens teachers, who dried their tears, took deep breaths, and called each and every one of their families, spoke to the children to assure them that we are going to be ok, and rallied to move themselves and their classes to a new location…motivated, excited, and grateful to be able to help their children return to normalcy.
- It is the other Georgetown Hill campuses, who have been ready and willing to drop everything and welcome the Woodley staff and families with open hearts and arms. Even our families at the hosting campuses have offered to bake muffins, move furniture, and volunteer their time to help the Woodley staff and families feel at home in their new, temporary digs.
- It is the phone calls, e-mails, messages and posts from former families and staff- some who were with us when we first began almost 40 years ago- who remind us that our impact on families lasts long after the preschool years.
- It is the countless sincere offers of support from our Rockville community:
City of Rockville, Montgomery County and State of Maryland officials, who directly and indirectly sent words of encouragement and offers to support us in our efforts to re-home or re-build our incredible school
Steve Beck, the property owner, who is helping us navigate through uncertain terrain
Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe, who donated and served coffee, hot chocolate and ice to our staff and families who joined together for a “hug your teachers” get-together on Wednesday night. Thank you, Jason and Jayden (a proud GHWG alum).
Woodley Gardens Civic Association and Woodley Gardens Mom’s Club, who are excited to support and partner with us to preserve the future of the preschool and swimming pool
Woodley Gardens Community Families, who have not only offered to donate supplies and money to rebuild, but also offered their homes to babysit each other’s children and host play dates so parents could return to work during the waiting period
- It is our core values, being lived out loud, and reminding us that they are more than words- they are our direction when we may otherwise feel lost:
We are trustworthy. We have been completely transparent with our staff and families, even if that means that we can’t give many firm answers during this time
We put the child first. Though there are many things to figure out, our top priority has been to quickly find a home for each and every child so that they can be with their friends and teachers again and return to normalcy.
We are family. When families speak about their Georgetown Hill experience, there is no more common response than “it is a family” or “a second home.” Enough said.
We are gentle. Sticking firm to “policies” and what is best for our school financially are not what we are thinking about now. During this time of uncertainty, our families were not charged, our staff continued to get paid, and we are not penalizing the few families that simply cannot make it work at another campus.
We are joyful, even in the face of such pain and uncertainty, we have smiled and focused on gratitude…hugs from our children on Monday morning will surely amplify our joy!
While next steps are not entirely under our control and may feel uncertain right now, you can be absolutely certain that we are not destroyed- we are fully intact, feeling all of the love, and ready to take on whatever 2019 will bring…together.
GEORGETOWN HILL AT WOODLEY GARDENS FEELS THE LOVE AND LOVES YOU RIGHT BACK!
Ellen Cromwell, Founder
Pete Cromwell, CEO
Kristen Cromwell, Operations
Melanie Morillo, Campus Director