By HANNAH JOHNSON
Afton Preschool will be closing its doors for good on Thursday.
The preschool is closing after 44 years of instructing 3 and 4 year olds at Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton.
The preschool, which was not affiliated with the church, teaches letter and number recognition, early literacy skills, cooperation and listening, writing and various other skills.
The school will close the year with 16 students – a number vastly smaller compared to earlier years. The school is licensed to teach up to 40 students, but with dwindling numbers the school has had to scale back from two to three classes five days a week to one class offered three days a week, said Director Cindy Melzer.
"We used to have two classes and were licensed to take 20 students in each class, and at one point there was even three classes," Melzer said. "But then we had to combine the ages of the classes and just do one class, three days a week."
Melzer said the housing market was one of the biggest contributors to shutting down the school.
"The housing values got so high in the Valley and when that happened young families couldn’t afford to buy a house out here," Melzer said.
The school has typically drawn students from Afton, but also from Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Woodbury and even Hudson, Wis. at one point.
The official closing notice was mailed out to parents in April.
"We’ve seen this coming for several years, especially the last two years," Melzer said. "We would have been very surprised if we made it past this year."
Afton Preschool will host its annual year-end picnic on Thursday, which will be the last time the preschool convenes.
"It’s just one of those things. That’s how life goes," Melzer said. "We’re going to go out and hold our head high and say we tried, but this is a sign of the times."