20210107-LOC-Retreat

Mulberry Bush Early Learning Program Director Cathy Siggins in the school’s pre-K classroom in Brattleboro Wednesday.

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Retreat’s on-site preschool has reopened under new ownership, after the mental health agency announced in October the program would close due to financial difficulties.

The Mulberry Bush Independent School was one of five programs the Retreat planned to cut, but in December the school was purchased by Brattleboro’s Horizon Early Learning Program, according to Retreat spokesman Konstantin von Krusenstiern.

The school closed Dec. 26 but reopened Wednesday as the Mulberry Bush Early Learning Program.

“The Retreat is thrilled to have the Mulberry Bush remain on its campus, and has great faith in both the new owner, Melanie Zinn, and the new program director, Cathy Siggins — both veterans in the field of early childhood education,” von Krusenstiern said in an email.

Annually the Retreat serves approximately 5,000 people across all its programs, including about 2,500 in its inpatient programs.

The decision to cut five programs came within a year of President and CEO Louis Josephson’s threatening to close or sell the Retreat or scale back its services due to financial pressures. The state had tried to assist the facility with millions of dollars in additional funding in 2020.

The four programs that closed — which Josephson said in an October email to staff were selected, along with the preschool, due to a drop in demand and revenue — were its hub program, an outpatient addiction-management program called Starting Now, its pain-management program and its K-12 on-site therapeutic school for patients.

Eighty-five positions associated with the programs were also eliminated.

The Retreat still offers its adult, adolescent and child inpatient beds; child and adolescent residential services; virtual partial hospitalization program; intensive inpatient program; and the outpatient Anna Marsh Clinic.

The new Mulberry program will continue providing early learning services for children and families in the Brattleboro area, including Retreat employees, von Krusenstiern said.

Five former employees of the preschool have accepted positions under the new management, he added.

The program — which serves children from birth to age 5 — has 29 students enrolled, according to Siggins, and has a capacity for 59. All those who attended the Mulberry school before its brief closure are still enrolled, she noted.

The school currently has 12 employees, Siggins said, with plans to hire more teachers once enrollment increases after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having the families and children back today has been great,” Siggins said Wednesday afternoon. “It just seems like a win-win for everybody.”

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com.