North Dundas Council members joined with Happy Face Nursery administrators to cut the ribbon at the Winchester location’s grand opening on Dec.14. Left to right are North Dundas Coun. John Lennox, Deputy Mayor Theresa Bergeron, Happy Face Nursery president Joe Brennan, Coun. Gary Annable, Happy Face executive director Cheryl Firlotte and Coun. Matthew Uhrig.  Morin Photo

WINCHESTER – The arrival of a Happy Face Nursery School to a permanent home in the Winchester Public School began in 2015.

On Dec. 14, the popular nursery school cut the ribbon on its new facility.

The funding for the building project that would see an addition to the Winchester Public School came from the Ontario Ministry of Education in 2015.

The building permit for the construction of the nursery school was issued in 2021.

Through eight years of negotiations between the North Dundas Municipality, the Ministry of Education, the Upper Canada School Board, and a change in government, all of those involved kept their eye on the ball. Consequently, the nursery school was officially opened in 2022.

Joe Brennan is the president of the board of directors for the Happy Face Nursery group.

He said, “When I joined the board we had three school sites.”

This location is special. “This one was custom built for us,” said Brennan. “All of the others were retrofitted, but this is pretty fantastic.”

He said when you are in a retrofitted school, there is a different feeling than in a school made especially for you.

Brennan began his relationship with Happy Face Nursery as a parent in South Mountain.

“This is really the first time we have been able to have some input into what was really going to happen,” he said.

He stressed how important it was to have support from the community and parents.

“Our parents are good and are staff is amazing,” said Brennan.

Cheryl Firlotte is the executive director of Happy Face Nursery Schools said, “The new Winchester location serves 49 children 0-6 years of age.” The school had a soft opening in September and serves infants, toddlers and pre-school ages.

She added that they now have a waiting list of children waiting to come to the nursery school.

“There is such an incredible need in this area.”

There are five Happy Face Nursery Schools operating in the area with a total staff of 74. Happy Face Nursery School was established as a part time co-operative preschool in 1974 and is a non-profit organization.

There is one in South Mountain, Morrisburg, Avonmore, Chesterville, and now in Winchester. The Winchester location is the only one that was custom designed and attached to the existing Winchester Public School. The others were parts of an existing school that were taken over by Happy Face.

The Winchester nursery school has three classrooms, an office for administration and staff, a kitchen and a laundry room.

The idea behind having a nursery school attached to existing schools was to try and create a family hub of education with young children in nursery schools being able to eventually transition seamlessly into the older children school system.