After almost 15 years, Casa dei Bambini, a bilingual preschool in West Asheville, the school’s owners have announced that it will close at the end of June.
Casa began as an idea conceived while owners, Stephanie Crawford and David Wilson, were in grad school, back in 1996. The just-married pair moved to Asheville in 1999 to establish their new home and open a Montessori school.
Things didn’t happen as swiftly as they’d hoped. Stephanie took her first teaching position at Isaac Dickson Elementary and then a research associate position at locally based Orleana Hawks Puckett Institute (early childhood research). Plans were delayed when David was suddenly placed on the liver transplant list at Duke University Medical Hospital due to a previously dormant genetic liver disorder named, oddly enough, Wilson’s Disease. Three years later, David successfully received his liver transplant. The couple welcomed their first child a few months after that.
The couple licensed Casa dei Bambini (named after Maria Montessori’s first school in Italy) in their home in Malvern Hills less than two years later. They located and hired their first native Spanish-speaking teaching assistant and began their successful dual-language immersion preschool approach.
Stephanie found a new location for the school in 2004, at 818 Haywood Road in what was the North Carolina School of Natural Healing. Crawford says “the stars aligned, we got lucky and everything happened pretty quickly. I was finishing my business class at what is now Mountain Biz Works and happened upon the ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign, and the rest is history.”
The recent decision to close the school has been difficult.
“It is such a hard thing to close,” Stephanie says. “This has been our life’s work and we enjoy what we do here daily. We adore the people we work with and the warm, caring work environment and school community we’ve co-created for all of us. Casa Dei Bambini is thriving now, more than ever, and our popularity, paired with our area’s critical shortage in childcare placements, for people under 3, have us turning away and placing on a waiting list, five or more families per week. Additionally, several long-term (10+ years) Casa teachers are retiring and we’ve decided to follow them. We aim to spend more time with our teenage daughter and take her to Spain and South American to nurture our Spanish language beyond classroom proficiency.”
Crawford goes on to say, “The neighborhood received our school culture and concept very well and our dream school has been both beautiful and sustaining to our own family, as well as to countless other families. We are so proud of all that we have achieved and how we have learned and grown. It’s been a long and winding road and we remain forever grateful for each and every Casa family. We’d like to give a special shout-out to all of our first Casa Dei Bambini families. You know who you are! All of our people, our amazing Casa Staff, past and present, and Casa families have fed our souls, made it all worth the while and kept us going through every endeavor.”
Although Casa Dei Bambini’s owners are currently working with parents and area educators, considering all options for possible continuation of a neighborhood preschool, the Haywood Road corridor property zoned HR-3 (commercial three story approved ), may be for sale in the near future.
This is a great preschool. I hope someone will step forward to carry on its mission.
I’m deeply grateful for the excellent preschool environment the staff and owners have peovided for my daughter and the community.