Parents at work can keep eye on children at new Bonita Springs preschool

Outdoors of new Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

Outdoors of new Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

— When parents drop off their children at a new Bonita Springs preschool, they won’t be far away from checking up on how the little ones are doing.

That’s because they’ll be able to watch their children from work or home.

The Growing Room Child Development Center will offer online cameras for parents, which will give them access to monitor their children remotely, from their computer or smartphones.

“It’s really so they can be part of their children’s days,” said Gina Johnston, owner and executive director. “We are an extended family. We want them to see what is going on.”

The Growing Room Child Development Center, a 14,400-square-foot preschool, is slated to open Monday, May 20.

“We are happy to be here,” said Johnston, while making final preparations in the school.

A ribbon-cutting for the state-of-the-art preschool, which resembles a small town, is slated for 8:30 a.m. today. The ceremony is an invitation-only event.

Johnston said there is no other preschool in the area that offers what the Growing Room Child Development Center will.

In addition to the online cameras, which will cost parents $10 per month, the preschool will focus on an active learning curriculum. The center also has locked-down security — parents and guardians will access the center using thumbprint scanners.

The Growing Room Child Development Center, 25151 Bernwood Drive, just south of the intersection of Old 41 Road and Bernwood Drive, is expected to employ 40 to 45 full-time workers once at capacity, including teachers, teachers’ aides, cooks, administrators and maintenance personnel.

“That’s a pretty big company for Bonita Springs’ specific standards,” said Christine Ross, president and CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council, about the number of employees. “We are just pleased to have these resources here.”

Ross said a curriculum-based preschool system, versus whatever other option is out there, will be a nice, new resource in the community.

The Columbus, Ga.-based franchise preschool is owner-operated in Bonita Springs. The franchise, one of potentially three the company plans to open in Collier and Lee counties, is expected to have capacity for up to 200 children, ages 6 weeks to those ready for kindergarten. So far, the preschool has nearly 100 enrolled.

“We do have the ability to expand,” Johnston said. “We are looking to develop additional centers in Southwest Florida.”

The preschool was lured to the city with the help of the Bonita Springs-Estero Economic Development Council.

“They chose Bonita Springs over cities on the other coast because of the density of children that we have,” Ross said.

Ross said the preschool raved about its experience with the city’s streamlined permitting one-stop shop.

The center, decorated to represent a small town, features 12 classrooms, a dance room, a private room for nursing mothers and a parent lounge. The hallways simulate roads where children can discover a bakery, toy store, candy store, pet shop and pizzeria.

Classroom of new Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

Classroom of new Bonita Springs preschool, the Growing Room.

Johnston said the preschool is working to get Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE) accreditation, which can be acquired after it’s open for a year. Once the school obtains that, the preschool would receive the Florida Gold Seal of Excellence, demonstrating top qualities for education.

Tuition prices range based on the child’s age and hours enrolled. The school offers full-time and part-time options. For example, monthly tuition for an infant is $895 full-time and $645 part-time; for 4- or 5-year-olds, cost is $775 full-time, $600 part-time, or $400 for two days.

The preschool participates with the Early Learning Coalition, so that parents only pay based on their economic ability. In addition, the preschool offers Voluntary Prekindergarten, which offers a 3-hour class for free.

Phillip Downs, a senior partner, said there will be no more than four infants per teacher.

“The goal is to exceed the state ratios for students per teacher,” he said.

For example, the state says for every 20 students age 4, a center has to have one teacher, yet the new preschool will have one teacher for every 10 students.

In addition, the center features a 7,000-square-foot play area with a rubberized mulch floor to protect the children from hurting themselves, Downs said. The play area will be divided into three age-appropriate areas.

The preschool has a fully equipped commercial kitchen and plans to serve hot breakfast and hot lunch to every child as well as afternoon snacks. Parents are welcomed.

“Once that facility gets going, it’s going to be one of the busiest restaurants in town,” Downs said.

* * * * *

An open house is slated from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on two Saturdays: May 11 and May 18. All interested parents and others are welcomed to stop by and meet the staff.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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