Goddard School looks to become the neighborhood school in Stratfield
FAIRFIELD — The land that once held the Stratfield Market is occupied and operating after more than a decade of vacancy.
The Goddard School, a chain of more than 500 private preschools with franchisees in Wilton, Westport, Danbury, Monroe and Brookfield, opened its doors for the first day of school last week at the 1280 Stratfield Road location.
Kim Sherman, the owner and operator of the Fairfield location, said the opening went off without a hitch. There are already more than 40 students enrolled, she said, including babies yet to be born.
The private pre-school is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and serves children from 6 weeks to 6 years. She said the Goddard School provides a play-based learning experience in a nurturing environment.
Tuition is based on what program and curriculum a child is placed in, according to Sherman. She said sending a child to the program full time for five days a week costs $1,920 per month.
The Stratfield Martket closed in 2006 and since then, has had various developers attempting to build on the property. After its closure, the property was bought by Samuel Lotstein Realty, which planned to put a Walgreens there.
The pharmacy plan sparked controversy, with residents successfully pushing for zoning laws to be changes that prevented the opening of chain stores in the neighborhood.
The site changed hands several more times with no plan coming to fruition. Opening the new Goddard School in the Stratfield neighborhood was paved, in large part, by a zoning change in 2013 that allowed for an educational institution to operate there.
At the time, Child’s World Academy wanted to fill the space. The Planning and Zoning commission altered zoning for the space to allow for the business. That plan fell through because the developers at the time were unwilling to pay for remediation of asbestos and PCBs at the site.
In early 2019, a Southport-based real estate manager called Summit Development bought the building for $1.45 million and signed a 15-year lease with Goddard.
The Stratfield Village Association, a non-profit organization that advocates for the neighborhood, served as a community liaison to Summit.
It also tried to ensure the project worked well with the Four Corners Project, a local initiative to improve the streetscape at the intersection of Fairfield Woods Road and Stratfield Road.
Sherman said she opened the school because, as a former elementary school teacher, she saw a need for a high-quality early childhood education program in the area.
“A lot of our older students are coming from schools in town where the parents weren’t happy with the situation,” Sherman said, adding that most students attending are from Fairfield with some coming from the surrounding towns.
She said having many of the students be from the Stratfield area helps make it feel like a neighborhood school.
While the school now occupies a long-abandoned building, SVA co-president Jamie McCusker said that a survey the organization conducted found that roughly 80 percent of residents still wanted a neighborhood market.
Mark Barnhart, director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, said there is no longer a market for a small grocery store in the neighborhood. He said he is excited the space is finally filled.
Sherman said she has gotten a positive reaction from the community so far — although, she said, some people joke that she should have a refrigerator with eggs and milk put outside the school.