2016-04-28 / Front Page

Little Horizons looking for new home

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer


Monica Lovecky, 62, has taught preschool in Old Orchard Beach for more than 30 years, but now she needs to find a new location. A fundraising effort has begun online. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Monica Lovecky, 62, has taught preschool in Old Orchard Beach for more than 30 years, but now she needs to find a new location. A fundraising effort has begun online. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A nursery school that has operated in town for more than 30 years is looking for a new home.

Monica Lovecky, teacher and owner of Little Horizons Nursery School for children ages 3 to 5, said the school will be moving from its current location in June. Lovecky said Little Horizons was founded as a Christian school at Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church, where it has always been housed, but eventually became an independent business.

Lovecky said she was a member of the church and was looking for a part-time job shortly after she gave birth to her first child in 1981. She worked part-time at the nursery, but in 1983, the original founders called it quits and it was up to Lovecky to either take over the school or let it close.


Monica Lovecky dresses as a clown, makeup and all, to show children at Little Horizons Nursery School that clowns are regular people and not to fear. The class was wrapping up a learning section on the circus. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Monica Lovecky dresses as a clown, makeup and all, to show children at Little Horizons Nursery School that clowns are regular people and not to fear. The class was wrapping up a learning section on the circus. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) “I took off with it,” Lovecky said. “I started going to school and getting more education about it … It got very successful, just by word of mouth. Officially, it became a school in 1984. I got a federal ID number and turned it into a business.”

Lovecky, who also substitute teaches kindergarten at Jameson Elementary School, said the concept of her instruction is to teach children through play.

Debra Lombard, who founded The Dance Company in Saco, said two of her daughters went to Little Horizons Nursery School and a granddaughter currently attends.

“It’s just this little magical school,” Lombard said. “The teaching style that Monica has – she’s so immersed in everything she does there. Her whole heart and soul is in it. (The school) is not too big, it’s just a true family of kids.”

One former student of Lovecky’s, Christopher Bell, started a page on GoFundMe.com titled “Project New Horizons,” to help raise money for Lovecky to find and retrofit a new location for the school.

As of the Courier’s deadline, the site had raised $2,030 of its $10,000 goal.

Bell, whose daughter attends the nursery, wrote in the project description, “Miss Monica has given her heart and soul to the community while running the school. She has kept the costs low to make sure that all kids have the opportunity to attend. In doing that for us all, she hasn’t been able to put enough away for a rainy day fund to relocate her school.”

Lovecky said she charges $240 a month for her services and is currently teaching 16 children from across the region. Lovecky said she has students from Arundel, Biddeford, Buxton, Old Orchard Beach, Parsonsfield, Saco, Scarborough and Waterboro.

Six pastors have led the Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church in the time that Lovecky has run the school, but in January of last year, Lovecky said she was informed by Pastor Michael Gray that the church wanted to reclaim the space for its own use.

On the church’s Facebook page and website, a post encouraged members to donate to the GoFundMe page to help support Lovecky in finding a new space.

“Little Horizons started as a part of our church decades ago and became its own organization along the way,” the post reads. “We have been fortunate to be able to support them over the years, but our little church has had financial issues for a long time and we realized that we needed to look at downsizing our building. We extended our decision for one year, but we will have to close the Education Building over the summer to save money so we can build a smaller, more energy-efficient space.”

While losing the space where she has taught for more than 30 years compelled her to consider closing the school, Lovecky said the outpouring of support from families has motivated her to find a new location.

Lombard said Lovecky’s approach is to create several themes each week and design a curriculum related to those themes.

“Like the last two weeks before vacation, it was a rainforest in half of the school and a circus area in the other half,” Lombard said. “This is what she does, she goes full-out with everything. She’ll do the desert, she’ll do dinosaurs – at holidays, she will do one week of Kwanzaa, one week of Hanukkah, one week of Christmas.”

Lovecky said on Fridays, she disassembles the props and decorations of her classrooms and spends the weekends setting up the classroom for the next learning unit to start on Monday.

“I’m always researching, putting in new things, trying new things,” Lovecky said.

And she also enjoys dressing the part. When the circus unit was up, Lovecky dressed as a clown.

Lovecky said all of her props and costumes are saved and stored in the church. Any new space would probably need about 2,500 square feet to accommodate two classrooms and storage space, she said.

Lovecky said she also works with Child Development Services of York County, a program of the Maine Department of Education that provides early interventions for children with disabilities. Lovecky said she has taught children with speech disabilities, autism, Asperger syndrome, and children who are blind or deaf.

“The school qualifies (to work with disabled children) because it has all the things it needs to work with children, so if I have to adapt for them, I can,” she said. “I work with specialized people and continue with their therapy when they’re with me in the program. It helps to have it so children going into (kindergarten), they have a plan.”

Lovecky said many times, a special education student entering kindergarten may be placed in a special education classroom and lose six to eight weeks while an individualized education program is established for that student. However, if the child enters kindergarten with an IEP already in place, Lovecky said they are less likely to miss out on important early-learning instruction.

Lombard said Lovecky is always finetuning and improving her craft as a teacher.

“She’s always doing new things, that’s just a given,” Lombard said. “Of course with iPads and all that, they now learn with these apps they have they can all use, they do a little bit of technology stuff. It’s definitely developed, but she stays true to the roots of teaching kids basic things.”

Lombard said her daughters were well prepared for kindergarten after attending Little Horizons Nursery School for a pre-kindergarten education. One of her daughters, who is now an occupational therapist, Lombard added, told her that Lovecky was the best teacher she had.

“To this day, she will tell you that Monica was the best teacher she ever had her entire school career, and she has a master’s degree and has had a lot of teachers across her educational career.”

Lovecky said she spends time with the children working on the alphabet and numbers and using their cognitive skills.

“What I do is give them a little touch, a taste of all of it, so when they get into kindergarten, they just fly,” Lovecky said. “They’ve got wings and are ready to grow.”

Lombard said she is hopeful that efforts to help Lovecky move the school to a new location are successful.

“I’m really hopeful that she gets this new place and she can continue doing what she loves and what our kids love,” Lombard said. “The kids deserve her to be still teaching. It’s too early for her to be retiring. We don’t want to lose her yet.”

How to help

For more information on the Project New Horizons fundraising effort, visit the GoFundMe.com page at https://www.gofundme.com/8ere9ytb.

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