Last year Director Lisa-Marie Thomson took a hard look at her center, the Mission Viejo KinderCare in southern California. The previous center director had ended the center’s school-age program, choosing to add an additional preschool classroom instead. The more Lisa thought about that decision, the more she wondered if perhaps it was time for change.
“I was looking for an opportunity to expand our programs,” she said. “I felt we were stunting our growth by stopping at kindergarten.”
With the approval of her district manager and the support of her teachers, Lisa-Marie set about bringing back the school-age program. First she had to work through the logistical aspects – relicensing the classroom, finding a bus to transport children to and from their elementary schools, recruiting a school-age teacher – and then she had to convince parents to sign up for the new program.
“Let us take the hassle of the morning crunch time,” Lisa-Marie told parents of soon-to-be school-age students last summer. She pointed out to parents that center staff could deal with drop off and morning traffic, ensuring parents had plenty of time to arrive at work. Plus, by signing up for the new school-age program, parents wouldn’t have to worry about introducing their children to a new center along with a new school. Children could go to school knowing they’d return to a familiar environment after class and have dedicated time to work on their homework (perhaps more of a reassurance for parents than for children).
Although the center’s school-age program is still in its infancy, Lisa-Marie says they’re off to a good start with a creative, professional teacher, a California native who transferred from her North Carolina KinderCare to Mission Viejo, who’s eager to grow the program. The room is filled with new equipment and Katie, the school-age teacher, is working with the children to establish their own classroom council; introducing children to additional responsibilities and providing them with the opportunity to take pride in establishing their own classroom.
As the first year of the school-age program comes to a close, parents are already inquiring about space in the school-age summer program for which Lisa-Marie is planning some great field trips. Families are choosing to stay at the center beyond kindergarten and for Lisa-Marie and her staff, that’s the best news.