With the start of the new year, Mineral Area College is preparing to open an Early Learning Academy later this month for children ages 2-5.
Located outside the main entrance to the Park Hills-based community college, Director Jennifer Sikes describes the academy as "an innovative new preschool." Located between the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Serenity HospiceCare, the facility will utilize a play-based curriculum.
"We are still planning on opening in January," said Sikes. "Our target date is Jan. 17th, but we have to wait to meet with our compliance officer on Jan. 9th to receive the all clear."
Sikes explained that current research shows that children who play have brains that are 20% larger than students who do not play. At the academy, children will develop a sense of responsibility for each other and their natural environment.
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"Our highly-qualified teachers will be prepared to support children at all levels of learning with the ability to make accommodations in order to help each child build confidence in their own unique gifts," Sikes said.
At a recent open house held at the academy, guests were given a chance to tour the recently remodeled, ADA-compliant facility designed to meet the needs of all children.
"Our three classrooms each feature multiple learning and activity areas, high-tech Promethean interactive learning displays and reading nooks," Sikes said. "Our flexible common area serves as a group learning space for meditation and will then become our dining space, where meals will be served family-style to help children develop important life skills. Plus, children love our child-sized sinks and restroom facilities."
Following the tour of the facilities, Dr. Gilgour explained how the Early Learning Academy came to be.
"MAC just turned 100, and we're now starting our second century of serving this community. In my mind, it's not only a new century, but it's a new era at MAC. You drive around this campus, and you see all the things that are happening, all the things that are going on. It really happened because of the people we have here that have ideas, that have plans, that have visions of what this place is going to look like. This is a great example of it because I've been here three-and-a-half years now, and not too long after I started, Jennifer [Sikes] came into my office and said she had a plan.
"You know, a lot of people come into my office, and they have plans. They're not developed too much — they're just ideas. This was a plan. Jennifer had every aspect of this place worked out to the letter. She had every question answered that I had. She had all kinds of documents and budget information and all kinds of things to make this a reality. For me, it's just been three years, and just to see this is really impressive and really, again, speaks to what is happening at MAC and the difference that we're making in this community."
Sikes said, "We're excited about the innovative curriculum we have here and all of the opportunities for families to stay connected and be involved — and make sure we're giving high-quality instruction and high-quality learning — and being intentional with it and just growing a beautiful culture here at MAC and the learning academy. We are still accepting enrollment and it is for community, personnel, or students in need of high quality care for their children ages 2-5 years old who have been potty-trained.
The learning academy's hours are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Extended Care continues through 6 p.m. Extended Care is $25 weekly, with all children to be picked up by 6 p.m. A limited number of childcare subsidies will be accepted.
For more information, contact Jennifer Sikes, director, at 573-518-2142 or email EarlyLearning@MineralArea.edu.
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or firstname.lastname@example.org