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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Maharishi School expands preschool, child care

School will add 24 slots this fall, and could add 30 more next year
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Aug 09, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Maharishi School preschool director Michelle Svenson sifts “flour” in the sandbox with fellow chefs Farrah Krieger, left, Indie Picard, center, and Ava Matthes. The group planned to use the flour to bake a chocolate cake. The school announced this week it will expand its preschool and child care services by 24 slots in the fall.

Maharishi School will add 24 spaces to its child care and preschool this fall.

The school’s preschool director Michelle Svenson said this will bump the total number of slots to 59. Fifty-seven of those are already filled.

The expansion entails one classroom set aside for 16 kids ages 18 months to 3 years. Two classrooms can serve the 43 children between ages 3-6. Eight children will be added to the school’s afternoon program, which increases the number of children in the school’s full-day service to 42.

Additional staff have been hired to accommodate the increase in children.

Svenson began working for Maharishi School in 2015 and was recently hired as its preschool director, assuming the role previously held by Rebecca Bellonci.

Maharishi School offers Montessori classrooms and an Arbor Day Foundation Nature Explore playground. Children are free to choose any of the games or learning materials available and can play with them as long as they like.

Svenson said that if demand for child care spots remains high, the school could expand its offerings even more to 89 slots next fall.

The school’s expansion is a step in the right direction of addressing the shortage of child care spaces in the county. Tammy Wetjen-Kesterson said the county suffers from a deficit of 589 spaces for children ages 0-9.

“Twenty four more spaces might seem like a small dent in that number, our market study showed we had a deficit in toddler spaces, and [Maharishi School] is addressing that,” she said.

In January, the Jefferson County Child Care Steering Committee, the Fairfield Economic Development Association and the Iowa/Jefferson/Keokuk Early Childhood Area Board commissioned First Children’s Finance to complete a Child Care Market Analysis to better understand the child care market in Jefferson County.

The market analysis showed shortages in the number of child care slots for 2-year-olds and full-day, full-year preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Parents who participated in the market study identified a licensed center or registered child care development homes as their preferred options for providing child care to their children.

Wetjen-Kesterson said the Iowa/Jefferson/Keokuk board is “looking forward to continuing to partner with Maharishi School Children’s House to assist them with their expansion. Their expansion to provide quality early education and care to children helps to meet the child care challenges in Fairfield.”

She said that in addition to helping existing providers such as Maharishi School expand, other goals include adding home care providers and building a brand new child care facility.

FEDA’s executive director Joshua Laraby remarked that expanding child care is essential.

“Child care services serve as vital infrastructure for growing and retaining our local workforce,” he said. “Maharishi School Children’s House expanding their services will help address a segment of the gap we are currently experiencing in Jefferson County.”

 

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