Article and Photos By Justin Ellick
As someone who attended Oak Lane as a young child, learning the details about this stellar child care center doesn’t come as a surprise to me at all. My mother (Adina Olin of Chappaqua) worked extremely hard, stressful hours, sometimes not returning home until seven or eight o’clock at night. I often heard from her that Oak Lane’s flexibility and family-like atmosphere allowed her to relax on the job and not have to worry about my safety or getting me home at a particular time.
“I needed long days. If I ever needed to leave you there past ‘hours,’ it was never a problem. The teachers even insisted,” my mom said. “It wasn’t just a place to go that had a babysitter, they were extremely interactive”, she continued. “The place was always immaculate, very personal. It always felt like home.”
With a year-round program, the Center allows working parents to leave their children in trustworthy hands virtually at any time.
Founded in 1972, Oak Lane Child Care Center began as a small community of families and staff that worked tirelessly together to create an environment for local children that working parents could trust. When they moved into their current home in Chappaqua in 1982, it quickly became the go-to childcare and pre-school center for working parents throughout the community.
As early as 1990, the Center became the first childcare center in the area to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Among other things, the NAEYC requires a certain level of education among the staff at the centers they accredit. Consequently, all of Oak Lane’s head teachers have at least a Master’s degree, while assistants must have at least an undergraduate degree to work at the Center. This allows the staff to create a well-planned, developmentally appropriate program that highlights convictions about community, preferences, equality and fairness. These types of programs allow the staff to effectively address each child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs. Additionally, teachers at Oak Lane tend to find a home when it comes to a suitable place to work.
“One of the knocks on child care is that there’s always this great staff turnover, and Oak Lane doesn’t have that,” said Executive Director Ronnie Weinberger. “Besides being a wonderful place for children and families, it’s also a great place for people to work.”
A not-for-profit childcare center, Oak Lane serves children from 18 months to five years old. When it comes to the reliability of the center, Oak Lane can’t be beat.
“From September to June is an academic schedule. And the, from the end of June to August we turn it into a summer program,”continued Weinberger. “We provide care for working families that starts as early as 7 a.m. and we stay open as late as 6 p.m.”
Working parents can relax at their respective occupations while their children are in more than safe hands up until the point they get off from work. This again plays into the willingness and dedication of the staff at Oak Lane to really nurture each and every child and make them feel as comfortable as possible without their guardians present, which can sometimes be an extremely difficult thing to do.
The uniqueness and willingness of Oak Lane has been a staple in our community for at least the past 20 years; I’m glad that I can help them gain the recognition they deserve for the enormous impact they have on the youth here in Chappaqua.
Greeley grad Justin Ellick, a sophomore Media and Communications Major at Ursinus College in Philadelphia, is an intern for Inside Chappaqua and Inside Armonk Magazines this summer.