Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Jack and Jill to close after 67 years in business

School was operated by mother, then daughter

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Brenda Ahearn⁄The Gazette
Susan Quisenberry, owner of Jack and Jill Nursery School, spends time with some of her students Friday in Hyattsville.
After serving Hyattsville-area children for more than 67 years, Susan Quisenberry and her husband, Jim, have put Jack and Jill School, a nursery school, up for sale.

The property, located on Hamilton Street in Hyattsville, includes the house where the nursery school is, and where Quinsenberry lives with her husband, and the adjacent Hyatt Park. Hyatt Park has been leased to the city for it to use since the early 1960s, Quisenberry said. She has decided to sell the property and move because her husband has advanced cancer.

In 1941, Quisenberry’s mother, Carolyn Day Wynne, started Jack and Jill School with one child whose parents paid $1 a day.

Wynne moved from New York to attend Marjorie Webster Community College in Washington, D.C., where she studied physical education with the plan to open a school.

‘‘This is what she wanted to do,” Quisenberry said.

Quisenberry has owned and operated the school since her mother’s death in 1987.

Currently, the nursery serves 24 children between 2 and 6 years old. The day care is approved by the Board of Education and the curriculum includes teaching the children phonics, letters, numbers and social skills.

‘‘[But] the 2-year-olds mostly learn how to share and get along,” she said.

At one point the school offered classes — certified through the Board of Education — for county children from age 2 up to the second grade. Before kindergarten was part of elementary schools, Jack and Jill would have up to 75 kindergartners at Jack and Jill for half a day.

Quisenberry, who began helping her mother at the school when she was in junior high school, said she’s had students who have attended the school enroll their own children there.

‘‘It’s really neat when they come back and they’re grown and have kids,” she said.

Quisenberry said she thinks her school has been successful for so long because of its homey feel.

‘‘Parents get to know everybody because it’s a small center and not a big corporations. And we get to know all the parents,” she said.

That was something that Mignon Pinson of Washington, D.C., said she liked about Jack and Jill when she was looking for a daycare for her daughter, Maya. The 3-and-a-half year old has attended Jack and Jill for a little more than a year.

‘‘It’s in a home setting,” she said. ‘‘It’s important for kids to come from home and go to another home setting, especially when your child is so young.”

Pinson said the fact that the school had been around for so long was also appealing to her.

‘‘The stability of the school was another thing that stood out to me. I’d always heard of Jack and Jill,” she said.

Quisenberry said she thought the stability of her teachers also helped Jack and Jill do well.

‘‘We’ve always had a stable teaching staff,” she said, adding one of her teachers had been with Jack and Jill for 16 years while another teacher recently retired after serving for 24 years. ‘‘Parents are usually looking for the stability in the staff.”

She said selling the school will be bittersweet. She and her husband plan to move out of the area once the school is sold.

‘‘It’s exciting because it will be a new adventure [and I’ll] be doing something different,” she said. She’s lived in the house most of her life, with her first-grade classroom being her bedroom at night. ‘‘[It’s sad because] of the reason why it’s being sold. But we feel we have to do this.”