Archive for Sunday, May 13, 1990

PRESCHOOLS

May 13, 1990

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Local churches triggered a wave of preschool and day care activity here 20 years ago when several congregations sought or agreed to accept programs in their buildings.

Today, several of those early-day centers remain in operation, some in their original church homes. But they've all changed with the times.

Sunshine Acres Montessori Preschool, celebrating its 20th anniversary today, became associated with Trinity-Centenary Methodist Church in 1972 and remains in the former Trinity Church building.

Four other preschools and day care centers, all named on a 1968-69 list compiled by the now-defunct Lawrence Association for the Education of Young Children, have logged even more than 20 years in service here, and all but one have church connections.

Community Children's Center, Inc., the Headstart program, is in Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., and United Child Care Center now United Child Development Center (UCDC), is in the First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt. Lawrence Cooperative Community Nursery School, now 42 years old, operated from several Lawrence churches before purchasing the former Wesley Methodist Church building at 645 Ala. in the mid-1950s as a permanent home.

THE ONLY other center on the 1968-69 list still in operation is Kansas University's Edna A. Hill Child Development Laboratory, established as a teacher training and community service facility at 1100 Mo. in 1943, but quite a few other schools are approaching their silver anniversaries.

Jan Brummell, director of the Douglas County Child Development Association, sucessor to the defunct association, said here and elsewhere, churches got involved in the preschool and day care field 20 years ago because they had the room already-equipped Sunday school classes empty six days a week. Congregations also saw day care as an appropriate service to their communities.

Alita Cooper, KU assistant professor of human development and family life who has been associated with the Edna Hill laboratories since 1955, said early childhood education became important nationally after the Headstart program was launched in 1965.

COOPER SAID the KU laboratories became quite a network of facilities during World War II, when the late Edna Hill first recognized an opportunity to create training facilities for her students and assist with the war effort.

All but one center in that network closed "almost overnight" at the end of the War. Today's extensive facilities are centered in Haworth Hall, and research has joined training and service as a third component of their purpose.

When such local child care facilities came into being, social interaction and kindergarten preparation were the focus; day care needs moved to the forefront later.

Today, all these programs continue to provide social and academic services but they also added day care components to better fit the needs of working parents.

MOST ALSO have expanded in size, in response to demand and because larger numbers of children are needed now to meet expenses.

Susan Mozykowski, founder and director of Sunshine Acres, said Trinity Methodist Church sought her out in 1972 to open a Christian-based center in its vacant church building.

The Trinity congregation had merged with Centenary Methodist Church, now at Fourth and Elm, she said, and wanted the Trinity building put to good use.

In 1970, Mrs. Mozykowski had established Sunshine Acres in her home, 2629 Haskell Ave, where her focus was preschool education.

Church officials asked her to provide extended care programs as well, and she said, over the years the demand for day care has grown. However she still discourages parents from using it if they don't have a real need.

OVER THE years, enrollment at Sunshine Acres has grown from 12 children the number Mrs. Mozykowski taught in her home to 120. In addition to preschool and day care, the school offers a private kindergarten and administers the state's child care food programs for about 70 licensed and registered day care homes in the county.

Most recently, Mrs. Mozykowski said, parents seeking to place their children at the school have expressed the concern that academics would be pushed on their children before they were ready.

Those fears seem to disappear, she said, once the parents observe in the classrooms, where several different teaching methods, including Montessori, are combined.

"We never force the children to learn," she said. "We let them learn."

CHARLINE Freitag, director of the Community Children's Center, said members of Plymouth Congregational Church decided in 1965 they wanted to provide child care for low-income families, investigated the federal Headstart program, and took the initiative to establish such a center there.

At first, the program's emphasis was on health, she said, noting federal guidelines are very specific. More recently, pre-academics, social skills, self-esteem work and parent involvement have been incorporated.

The center originally served 24 children; 78 are now enrolled.

UCDC is just across the street from Headstart, and there, director Barbara Bell said the First United Methodist Church launched its nursery school in 1964.

By 1968, they'd added full day care, combining social and academic components in both programs, and ultimately combining the programs. That center has grown from four rooms with 72 children to seven rooms and 120 children.

"TWENTY years ago, parents wanted a good home away from home," Mrs. Bell said, "with loving, caring adults to take care of their children while they were away."

Now, she said, her parents seek an academic program and preparation for school in combination with that loving care.

The community nursey is a cooperative, with parents involved in the operation of the school, and the goals of parents learning more about their children and providing a multi-racial and cultural experience for the children remain.

Marnie Argersinger, one of the founders, said they began in a house owned by the First Baptist Church at Ninth and Kentucky and were "passed around" to various churches in town black and white before settling at 645 Ala.

She said when they began, a consultant told them "don't get too steamed up. The life of a cooperative nursery is about six years."

SEVERAL other local centers also are approaching their 20th year of operation. Among them are KU's 18-year-old Hilltop Child Development Center, at 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., and the 16-year-old Montessori Children's House of Lawrence, 1900 University Dr.

Many more centers have opened in recent years in response to the the growing demand, which UCDC's Mrs. Bell said promises to continue. The prediction is, she noted, that in the next 10 years, 75 percent of the children will have both parents in the work force.

Peggy Scally, child care licensing charge nurse at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said that in 1976, Lawrence had 22 child care centers, including preschools and day care centers, and 28 day care homes.

Figures from earlier years were unavailable, but Mrs. Scally said she recalled only four day care homes in town when she went to work at the health department in 1971.

Today, official figures show 18 day care centers and 6 preschools most of which are at least double the size of any here in 1976, as well as 60 licensed day care homes and 180 registered homes.

JOAN REIBER, Hilltop director and president of the Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children, said child care professionals at these and other schools and centers across the state are wrestling with three major issues today as the field continues to mushroom: quality of care, compensation for teachers, and affordability and availability for parents.

Reiber said she hopes some federal leadership will be forthcoming if a national child care bill, now in a House-Senate conference committee, becomes law, and she said more parents need to get involved in the issue of affordable child care.

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