Teachers at Little Friends help some students with their work. From left to right, Thomas Riley, kindergarten, Marie O’Brien, teacher, Kristen O’Brien, kindergarten, Shannyn Riley, 3-year-old, Molly Brown, teacher, Kate Taylor, teacher, Celeste Matias, teacher and Dylan Breth, 3-year-old. Staff photo by Sean Cogan.

By Sean Cogan

On a warm spring morning at Little Friends School, the playful laughter of children emanates through open classroom windows that are lined with an assortment of colorful stuffed animals.

Students’ artistic masterpieces grace hallway walls and blocks and dolls litter the classroom floors. Little Friends is a child’s playground.

Whether a teacher leads a discussion, the class sings and dances together or the children simply play with one another, one thing is clear: everyone is excited to be there. Since opening in 1981, Little Friends School in Hamilton has provided children with a nurturing and caring environment where they can learn and interact with one another.

Much of this positive environment can be credited to the teaching staff, said Carol Maselli, program director for the school.

“The one thing that sets us apart from other schools is our staff,” Maselli said. “People come back here because of them.”

Many of the teachers on staff have been there for more than 10 years, showing their dedication and support to the children of the school, Maselli said.

“The staff does its absolute best to make sure that [the students’] school experience is nothing but positive,” said Kate Taylor, who has taught at Little Friends for a year and a half.

With a student to teacher ratio about 10 to one, the students get a considerable amount of time from their teachers, Maselli said.

The school, which is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children also offers a wide array of programs. It has a half-day nursery school for three and four-year-olds. It also provides its On My Own program, geared towards two-and-a-half-year-olds. For older children, Little Friends has a full-day kindergarten class that runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The school offers its Step Ahead program, a full-day enrichment program that is one step up from nursery school for those who miss the cut-off date for the age requirement for that class. The school also provides after-school care for children up to 12 years old.

During the summer, the school runs an 11-week camp for ages two and a half to 12. “We increased the age to 12 because the kids wanted to keep coming,” Maselli said with a laugh.

The camp, which costs $225 per week for five full days, includes a wide range of trip and activities. For example, they often take trips over to the Hamilton Area YMCA for swimming lessons.

The school has an abundant collection of resources at its disposal, including a full library, in which it runs Computer Tots, an auxiliary program brought in to help the children with their computer skills. The school also employs Little Sports, another outside program that comes in and runs gym classes for the children.

Little Friends offers flexible programs that Maselli says really “reach the individual needs of families.” Prospective students can choose from full-day and half-day programs, and they can customize the number of days they come in based on their schedules and budget.

Little Friends School is located at 221 Edinburg Rd. in Mercerville. Its business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about any of its programs, call Carol Maselli at (609) 890-9164.