By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Nancy Carr founded Kiddie Car Nursery School in 1970 and taught there for 27 years. On Sept. 16, she saw her school in a new place for the first time.
Kiddie Car, originally Kiddie Carr after its founder, operated out of Grace Lutheran Church for more than four decades, remaining there after Carr sold it in 1997. New owners Kelly Olsen and Maura Castle wanted to stay there, too, but they couldn’t; the church closed in April.
“We were kind of dropped a bomb in October when we found out they were going to close,” said Olsen, who attended the preschool herself, when Carr was the owner.
She and business partner Castle knew they couldn’t complete the purchase of the school until they found it a new home.
“We’d go after work every day and knock on churches and places of business,” she said.
Castle said they got especially lucky when they found their new home, Congregation Beth Israel on Eastern Parkway.
“We just happened to ring the bell,” Castle said. “The rabbi was here. We told him our story and he showed us around.”
The synagogue happened to have an empty wing of classrooms and a fenced-in backyard area, ready to be filled with play equipment. They were sold, and spent the summer sprucing and painting.
“Everyone from Kiddie Car said, ‘We’ll help you move,’ ” Olsen said. Best of all, she said, although many families enrolled in other preschools after Grace Lutheran closed, they all came back when they learned about the new location.
“We didn’t lose one family,” Olsen said proudly.
She and Castle are the school’s teachers, and they work alongside teaching assistants to care for 60 3- and 4-year-olds. During Carr’s visit from her home in North Carolina, they compared notes on what the job looks like now.
“Can you still have a pet?” Carr asked. The new owners didn’t know the answer yet — the space was still so fresh and unfamiliar. But Olsen fondly remembered the class rabbit from when she was a student, years ago.
“You could open Honey Bunny’s cage at will,” she said with a laugh.
Years of attachment
Things may be different now, but the school is still a multigenerational affair. Castle’s kids, now 9 and 11, both attended the school. She used to be a substitute teacher there before she and Olsen bought the place. Olsen’s three kids, aged 7, 8, and 11, all attended, too.
And it’s not just the owners who are attached to the place. Liz Bridge was a preschooler at Kiddie Car, and now her 3-year-old daughter, Abby, is in the program. Her son graduated last year.
As she sat on the floor with Abby discussing the diets of dinosaurs, Bridge said the change of location was no big loss for the program — its heart is the same.
“It’s hard to replicate the care they provide,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter what building they’re in.”