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Day care center that features outdoor learning plans to open Riverhead site

Tara Kochanskyj, founder and owner of Moriches-based day

Tara Kochanskyj, founder and owner of Moriches-based day care center The Bloom Learning Center, is planning to add a location at the site of the former Riverhead Country Day School in Stotzky Park. She is shown with her husband, Stephen. Credit: Randee Daddona

A new day care center is coming to Riverhead, possibly as soon as this fall.

Tara Kochanskyj, founder and owner of Moriches-based day care center The Bloom Learning Center, is planning to add a location at the site of the former Riverhead Country Day School in Stotzky Park, which closed in late 2016 due to financial troubles.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 5-0 Tuesday on a resolution to approve the license agreement for the property.

Kochanskyj, a former Riverhead resident who attended the defunct day school in her childhood, said she often receives messages from Riverhead residents who say the area needs day care options, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I knew that I would one day expand, and I had always hoped to expand into Riverhead because I grew up there,” said Kochanskyj, whose first teaching job was at the Riverhead school. “So it made sense to me to expand out East, where I know there’s a great demand for quality child care on the East End.”

Riverhead officials and residents pointed out that in years past the area lacked nearby day care options for families. Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent said that need still exists.

“Many parents, such as health care workers, are having to work longer hours, so this facility will give them peace of mind that their children are being well cared for,” said Kent, a retired teacher.

Councilman Tim Hubbard agreed.

“Especially now with the COVID situation and with public schools, there is going to be a need for child care moreso than what there was before this pandemic,” Hubbard said.

Kochanskyj said her day care center in Moriches — which looks after about 101 children — operates through a “learning through play” philosophy in which the children learn outside 85% of the time. She said the new Riverhead center would follow a similar model.

The Bloom center has taken extra precautions, such as requiring COVID screenings, temperature checks and sign-ins for anyone entering the building, in addition to frequent hand washing and cleaning and bleaching toys. The outdoor nature of the center also plays a role in having children safely participate at the center during the pandemic, Kochanskyj said.

Once minor renovations are done and building insurance and town health certificates are in place, Kochanskyj anticipates the center could open by this fall. She said she is optimistic that she will have strong enrollment once open, as families from North Fork communities like Jamesport, Mattituck and Calverton currently send their children to the Moriches school.

“A lot of families travel to us not only because they need child care in their area, but because they want our particular style of child care,” Kochanskyj said.

MORE ROOM TO BLOOM

The Riverhead building at Stotzky Park on Columbus Avenue is about 1,258 square feet, which is enough space for three classrooms, according to Tara Kochanskyj, founder and owner of day care center the Bloom Learning Center in Moriches. That school offers children learning in upper- and lowercase letter identification, letter sounds, colors, numbers and counting, shapes, fine and gross motor development, introduction to Spanish, and more, according to its website.

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