MVYouth awards Plum Hill, Montessori expansion grants

Children at the Vineyard Montessori School. –Courtesy MVYouth

MVYouth awarded $800,000 to Plum Hill School and the Vineyard Montessori School to support early childhood programs, according to a press release from MVYouth.

Funds will support the development of toddler programs that will increase the limited number of licensed childcare spaces on the Island for children 15 months to 2.9 years old. Together the projects will add 27 new toddler spaces and 18 new preschool spaces by summer 2021.

Plum Hill received $350,000 to make necessary renovations to property they purchased in West Tisbury to create a toddler program that will serve nine children. In addition to allowing the school to create the toddler program, the new property will allow the school to run a summer program for toddlers and preschool-age children.

The Montessori School received a $450,000 expansion grant to construct a new building at its Vineyard Haven Campus, adding 36 new childcare spaces by 2021.

MVYouth hired Boston-based consultant Sally Sharp Lehman to study issues facing the Island’s youth. 

“Access to quality, affordable childcare is essential for healthy early childhood development, supporting working families, and supporting a sustainable local economy. Childcare programs are particularly critical on Martha’s Vineyard, where the cost of living is roughly 60 percent above national averages, forcing many families to depend on two full-time incomes to survive,” the release states.

According to the study, infants and toddlers are “grossly underserved” by limited licensed childcare spaces. 

“Only 30 percent of the toddler population (approximately 244 children ages 15 months – 2.9 years old), and a scant 5 percent of the infant population (approximately 162 children ages 3 months – 15 months old), are currently served by licensed programs. Roughly 83 percent of the preschool-aged population (approximately 365 children ages 2.9 – 5 years old) are currently served. The planned expansions will increase the percentage of toddlers served by 11 percentage points (from 30 percent to 41 percent served) and the number of preschool spaces by 5 percentage points (from 83 percent to 88 percent served). MVYouth expedited the review of the two proposals in order to respond quickly to this critical need, fully funding both proposals ahead of their annual fall grant cycle.”

The study was done before the COVID pandemic, but the release states the pandemic has had “devastating effects” on childcare programs. Several childcare spaces on the Island have not yet reopened since their closures in March. 

“Since ratios are very small in licensed toddler programs (two certified early childhood educators per nine children), many programs will need to expand, be created, or become licensed to adequately support the community’s unmet demand for quality, affordable, and licensed toddler care. These two grants provide an incremental step in the right direction. We are very pleased to be supporting two schools with excellent reputations to accomplish their expansions, and in turn supporting the critical needs of the M.V. community,” Lindsey Scott, MVYouth’s executive director, said in the release.