Great Bay Kids' Company opens at Pease Tradeport


By: Abbie Hackett
Date: Friday, Jan 29, 2010
Publication: Portsmouth Herald

PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Kids' Company opened its doors for the first time Wednesday at its new Pease Tradeport location as program administrator Cathy DeWees, excitedly cried, "We've got babies!"

The new center is the third location operated by GBKC, a nonprofit organization providing child care for children age 6 weeks through preschool year-round, and through age 12 during its summer program. The Pease location joins long-established centers in Newmarket and Exeter, and is the only location enrolling infants.

"Our philosophy is that the child comes first," said Wendy Monroe, executive director of GBKC for the past 10 years.

Monroe said the center is licensed to enroll up to 270 children including the summer program, and stressed the increased demand for infant care, calling it a "huge need."

The Pease location's new 24,000-square-foot structure, designed by DeStefano Architects of Portsmouth, sits atop a hill at 81 New Hampshire Ave. The building's exterior resembles what a hybrid of an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse would look like if it were combined with an industrial barn. Another distinction is that the red building is also green. Monroe said the center uses a geothermal heating and cooling system.

"It's energy-efficient and money-saving," Monroe said.

GBKC puts its philosophy into practice with its infant/young toddler wing that promotes a shoe-free environment and features a stroller closet, two infant rooms joined by a softly lighted nap room, and two young toddler rooms. There is also a kitchenette with a refrigerator, sink and microwave for storing breastmilk and mixing bottles. The classrooms are named chicks, fawns, ducklings and lambs.

Anna Russo-Plouffe works in Portsmouth and dropped off her 19-month-old daughter, Angelina, in LeaAnn Wilcox' young toddler room. "I love the fact that you have to take off your shoes ...; it's very clean," she said. "It's wonderful!"

Russo-Plouffe toured 13 child-care centers before enrolling her daughter at GBKC, citing a decision partially based on the cooked lunches provided to all children by chef Buzz Chapman in the center's full-service kitchen.

"For us moms who cook for our kids, it's a wonderful transition," she said.

The meals, including pasta and soups, are prepared daily by Chapman according to USDA guidelines and rolled on a cart to each classroom where the children eat with their teachers.

The stainless-steel kitchen is on the lower level with the 3- to 4-year-old rooms, preschool rooms, a large staff room and multi-purpose room. The classrooms open directly to the lower play area that will enclose a water area and a track for riding toys. There is also an upper play area for climbing equipment. Both playgrounds are ringed with a 6-foot-tall wooden fence for privacy.

Preschool director Jennifer Decker sat cross-legged on the floor, reading "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" animatedly to a newly enrolled little girl.

"I'm thrilled," Decker said. "Between the security system and the state of the art facility — fully equipped with developmentally appropriate toys — it's a great opportunity for kids to have a safe home away from home."

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Pease center today at 9 a.m.

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