Friends ‘Refresh’ Shawmut Kindergarten

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

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Shawmut Kindergarten is getting a facelift. The historic building is being restored by a group of former students and teachers. 

“The conversation started a few weeks ago, with our so-called “Todd Squad.” All of us started kindergarten together, there was a group of us here in Shawmut, who started kindergarten back in the ’60s,” said Loretta Cofield a member of the group. 

The group of eight women started meeting for lunch to reconnect. After shutting down some local restaurants from staying so long, they decided to use the old Shawmut Kindergarten building. The building no longer houses the kindergarten and was sold by the school district to the city as an event space. 

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“It just looks so bad. I mean, it was built in 1908… some of our parents went through the kindergarten.”

The friends found the cabinets full of old party supplies, paint peeling, and bits of tape hanging off the wall. The group then called the city to ask if they could “refresh” the room, as Cofield called it.

The Valley Parks and Recreation director Laurie Blount helped liaison between the former students and the city. Together they were able to get the city to do lawn and maintenance work on the outside of the Kindergarten, put in a new sign, and pause April bookings for the space so the squad can do other work on the interior. 

The supplies will also be lent to the group for repainting, as the specific color of green will be used to keep the building’s history. The friends are looking for any donations or volunteers to help with the effort, as the cleaning and decoration costs fall on them. 

The effort is being led by Beverley Letson, not part of the original Tod Squad, but went to high school with the group, her kids attended Shawmut kindergarten and she taught at Shawmut Elementary most of her career. The kindergarten clearly means a lot to the group of volunteers restoring it. Despite Shawmut Kindergarten not receiving the best care from renters in the past, the group still encourages using the space but asks people to be more gentle with the old building.

“It is a big part. A big part of Shawmut history,” Letson said getting choked up. “I don’t want to lose it. And people using it, is really what’s going to keep it alive.”

The women have so far recruited family members and some friends to help with the cleaning and tedious taking down of adhesives from the walls. However, both Cofield and Letson are hoping to involve more of the community in the project. The first phase will include the cleaning and repairing of the inside. The group only has one month to finish, before the building is rented out again. 

Letson said they plan to do more work in between the bookings. The group aims to restore it to the same feel as the Kindergarten they or their kids grew up in. They still want it to be an event space, adaptable to renters, while keeping the history of the building and the kids it raised at the forefront.