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September 18, 2013

Southfield academy to move into Our Lady of La Salette School

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Southfield-based Crescent Academy Charter School has leased the former Our Lady of La Salette School building for the academy’s pre-kindergarten program.

BERKLEY — Our Lady of La Salette School in Berkley may have closed its doors this June after 70 years of educating students in the Catholic community, but the school building will not be void of education much longer.

While the Our Lady of La Salette church continued to use the building for religious education classes and parish meetings, the church recently agreed to lease the building to Crescent Academy Charter School. Beginning at the end of September, the Southfield-based academy’s pre-kindergarten program will move into the building.

“We started our pre-kindergarten program a couple years ago with six kids, and we have grown to about 144 kids, so we are expanding and needed additional space,” Crescent Academy Superintendent Cherise Cupidore said. “We’ve had pre-K for a couple years, and we continue to grow the program because it is a dire need, so now we have a school building that is about two miles from our main building.”

The pre-kindergarten program is anticipated to begin Sept. 25, Crescent Academy Director of Pre-School Patti Vassas said, with the school year ending in mid-June. The pre-kindergarten program was previously held in three classrooms in an elementary building in Southfield, but now the program will have access to eight classrooms.

“I’m really excited we get to have our own space, because preschool runs on its own schedule from the rest of the (academy), and it has its own needs,” Vassas said. “We will have 18 children in each classroom and three adults, with one being a certified Michigan teacher. We are thrilled to have a home just for our pre-K students so they can grow and develop and learn in a space that is all their own.”

The La Salette school building also will provide Crescent Academy administrators and educators an opportunity to do some things with the pre-kindergarten students that they couldn’t do in the previous building.

“The fact that there is a gymnasium that is dedicated to us during the day is wonderful because, when the weather is bad, we have gross-motor space for the children to work on their coordination and developing their motor skills,” Vassas said. “And the fact that we have a cafeteria keeps food out of the classrooms, which with little kids is kind of a necessity. We were not able to do that in our last facility.”

Cupidore said the waiting list for the Crescent Academy pre-kindergarten program has roughly 100 kids on it, but expanding to a bigger building could allow the school to grow its program and allow more than 144 students to attend each year.

While the new building isn’t in Southfield, she said everyone involved, from the administrators to the parents, would be mindful of the new community.

“Anytime we are expanding, we are always respectful of the community and the community rituals, so we will work in partnership with the community wherever we go,” Cupidore said. “This expansion is more important for the parents because they are looking to get into a quality program, and the state has recognized us for continuing to close up the achievement gaps.

“These kids have different needs than junior high or high school students, so we want to give them a space to align with their academic program.”

The Rev. Daniel Darga, with the La Salette church, said the school building was placed on the Archdiocese of Detroit website so interested parties could contact them if they wanted to use the building. The church had several churches and schools interested, but they eventually felt Crescent Academy was the best fit.

“We had an appraiser come out, and one of the major things in the report was that the best use for the building was for a school, so in that sense, it is the right fit with Crescent Academy,” Darga said. “The building is too large for just our own use, and we have costs that go with it. The parish was continuing to pay the bills and the insurance and the obligations involved, so we really needed a tenant in the building.”

Crescent Academy has been in Southfield since 2004, but the pre-kindergarten program is relatively new. Since growing from six students in the first couple years, Cupidore said the program has aided students’ education, and she hopes future growth will help more families and children.

“With the early childhood program, it gives the opportunity for students to get in here at a very young age and teach them skills on working together and problem-solving,” she said. “When they are able to do those things, once they get into kindergarten, the focus is on academics and not behavior.

“Our program has had great success, and the students that begin there are at the top of their class later on.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.