HAZLET –After 57 years, Creative Campus Nursery School, attached to the iconic A-frame Faith Reformed Church at Middle Road and Poole Avenue, has shut down. The last day of school was a graduation ceremony on Friday, June 7.
The little preschool with a gentle touch was established in 1962 by the church to serve the families flocking to new housing developments in Hazlet and the surrounding towns. For decades, the school served about 200 children a year from ages 2 ½ to 4 with reasonably priced half-day preschool. But that number has been steadily declining until finally it was not possible to continue next year.
“We just couldn’t stay afloat with all the free preschools,” said Betty Erbig, a member of the school’s board of directors, and the church secretary at Faith Reformed. “There’s so many free ones now. We drew a lot from Union Beach. So our enrollment has been going down.” Working parents’ need for full-time daycare has also led to losses, she added.
Union Beach and Keyport offer free preschool to four-year olds, and some three-year olds with special needs.
Hazlet Township offers half day preschool at Sycamore Drive Early Childhood Learning Center for three and four-year-old children, selected through a lottery process. Tuition is $260 a month. A limited number of children are accepted free on the basis of family income. “The district doesn’t receive any preschool funding from the state. We are hopeful that may change in the future,” said school district administrator Christopher Mullins.
According to Erbig, there were only about 15-20 kids that would potentially move up to attend next year, and that would not be enough. The full afternoon session had already been discontinued. So the writing was on the wall, and the school had to bid goodbye to the part-time staff comprised of a director, two teachers, two assistant teachers and secretary.
For someone who could remember when Creative Campus was profitable and operated van routes to pick up kids from Matawan and other towns, it is a sad moment. “We were the first ones, and we had a good reputation and people would come here. I never heard any complaints,” said Erbig, who is retired from St. John Vianney High School Guidance Dept. in Holmdel.
“We’re looking into other revenues now,” she said, declining to elaborate further but indicating the church with 45 active members, led by Pastor David Moore, may look to lease the room the school used for an art class and a big, spacious room with accordion door separators.