Liz Schmidt and Angela Starnes, directors at 5280 Early Childhood Education Center, have spent a lot of time observing and listening to parents and teachers about the common issues encountered at preschools.
Some problems that come to mind for Angela Starnes are high ratios of children to teacher in the classroom, lack of stimulation and education by the designated teacher, and not providing fresh meals and snacks.
Directors at “5280ecec” opened Sept. 23 at 17602 W. 14th Ave. in Golden, with the aim to meet parent and teacher expectations and ready to offer their services they say are productive through a meticulously constructed curriculum.
“We don’t want to be babysitters, we want to be classified as a school, as a learning center,” Angela Starnes, director of 5280ecec, said.
The preschool will prepare children for kindergarten, which has become more demanding, Schmidt, a licensed teacher and co-director at 5280 said.
“It’s highly structured,” Schmidt said. “Ultimately we want these kids to walk out of here with as much of a head start on kindergarten as we can get them.” Curriculums to be used include Hands-On Standards for Math, Handwriting without Tears and Zoo-phonics.
“All of these curriculums are designed to meet the child developmentally where they are at,” Schmidt said.
The learning center is now enrolling and accepting ages six weeks through 5 years old. The child-to-teacher ratio is one to two children less per teacher than the state mandates, Starnes explained. For instance, in the “Great Minds” classrooms which is split between fine motor and gross motor for ages three to four and a half, to gross motor for four and a half through five, the teacher to child ratios are 1-9 and 1-10 compared to state ratios which are 1-10 and 1-12.
“The ratios the state mandates are really high,” Starnes said. “We really wanted to eliminate a lot of stress from our teachers, from our parents, from the students.”
Lower ratios are applied for all the classrooms at 5280 including six weeks to 12-month-old infants which has a precise 1 to 3.3 ratio which is a 1.7 decrease to the state ratio of 1 to 5. Improving interaction in the infant room has been one achievement at 5280, with teachers expected to sit on the floor and engage the infant as well as work their muscles.
The “Great Minds” classrooms hold three different rooms with a reading corner, science corner, and one room set aside especially for play time. A full-time qualified cook will be on staff to serve fresh vegetables and fruit, and the center bans any of these items to be canned, along with frozen meats.
The development of a parent advisory board which will be set to meet every quarter will be created to help facilitate relationships between the center and the parents that allows for a sense of ownership of the center, said Starnes.
“It’s not just ours it’s the community’s school,” she said.
Already, 10 kids have been enrolled ranging in ages of 10 weeks to four and three quarters, Starnes said. The next step for the center will be applying for grants to help upgrade their playgrounds with slides and turf.
The most important thing the new center and the directors want parents to know is their cost for attendance will go to pay for quality education and care.
“We are really trying to make sure we do what’s right,” Starnes said.