Leah Prouty-Muller

Old Sturbridge Academy
Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Leah Prouty-Muller, Parent and Faculty Member


Like many families, we had some hard discussions over the past several months.  Because of the ages of my children and the fact that I, too, report to a school every day, our household had the potential to be exposed to four different school communities. This felt really unsafe (too many variables!), and we quickly realized it just wasn’t an option for us right now.

During our discussions, we considered a learning pod, wherein we would group with other families and pool our resources and hire a tutor/caregiver for the group. This was complicated, and despite finding a similarly minded small group of families, the logistics were practically impossible to navigate. Each meeting left us frustrated and with many questions about navigating the nuances. It was a stressful option!

Finally, we resigned ourselves and began debating which one of us was leaving our career to stay home with the children to manage home learning, which meant a significant, and perhaps not sustainable, loss of income for our family. But, it minimized a lot of the exposure we were looking at, and felt like the best way to keep everyone safe. However, we immediately began to fret about our finances and how to make up for the loss of income, keep our exposure low, and maintain a manageable family schedule around school and work. Whew!

I reached out to my building principal, Lisa DeTora to let her know that I would possibly not be returning to the fall, and began the paperwork for a leave of absence.  A few weeks later, Ms. DeTora came back to me and told me the Administration from the Village and the School had been discussing the hardship that many of their employees had been grappling with – how do I work while my children are home?  They had conceptualized a solution that would work for employees of both Old Sturbridge Village, and the Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School. In the absence of public school field trip programs and other educational outreach the Village often provides through the school year, the talented educators at Museum Education were going to be underemployed for the year.  The Administration was considering reconfiguring the Museum Education program as an educational Annex for the school-aged children of the Village and school employees. The Museum Educators would provide supervision and educational guidance to those children on remote learning days and would fill the gaps with enrichment using the Village resources. The title: The One Room School House.

When the possibility of the One Room School House was introduced, we considered its risks and benefits carefully.  The first thought we had was: if this becomes reality, it could save our family from losing an entire income!  After hearing the plans for the program, I realized how much care and thought went into it. The coordinators considered strict safety protocols, navigating the learning schedules from a variety of school districts, and how to offer meaningful, enriching activities during “down” time.  I have seen (and personally experienced) the protocols that Old Sturbridge Village and Old Sturbridge Academy have enacted to keep visitors, staff, and students safe, and I feel comfortable with them. I feel safe at the Village and in the Academy.

At the end of the day, the One Room Schoolhouse allows us to BOTH keep working, while offering an amazing, SAFE learning opportunity for our children. It has saved our family, and I am beyond grateful for that. I feel so honored to be part of The Village – a community that works to recognize, acknowledge, and act in the interests of all its members.          

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