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Grapeland’s Early Learning Center Readies for Year One


By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – With the start of any school year, there will be new faces in new places. This year is no exception, but when Grapeland ISD opens its doors for the 2019-2020 school year, a new facility with a new staff will already be up and running.

The Grapeland ISD Early Learning Center (ELC) is scheduled to open its doors on Monday, Aug. 5 at 6:45 am and will accommodate children from six-weeks to three-years of age.

Christie Hill

Recently, Early Childhood Administrator Christie Hill sat down with The Messenger to discuss the center and what it will be offering to the community.

“The idea for the Early Learning Center came about during October of 2018. (GISD Superintendent) Mr. (Don) Jackson approached me and asked me for some insight on child care. With my experience of working at Southside (Baptist Church Childcare Center in Palestine) for 22 years – 13 years as the administrator – he said he needed some insight,” Hill said.

The GISD superintendent told her the district was considering opening up a child care center or early learning center and would like her input to help bring the plans to fruition.

Now, with the ELC scheduled to open in just over two weeks, Hill was asked to provide an overview of the different age levels the center would serve.

“It is going to include children from six-weeks-of-age through the early threes – those are the kids who will be three after Sept. 1,” she explained.

As to what activities the infants would take part of, Hill said the staff would be taking care of their daily needs “… but they will be doing some art things. An example of this is we will put finger paint in a Ziploc bag where they can rub their fingers over it. It’s kind of a texture type of thing and the paint doesn’t get on their hands!” she laughed.

The children will be in different classrooms to help accommodate the different ages, Hill added.

“Our infants – six weeks through 12 months – will be in one class and will basically be in there for a whole year, if they come in at six weeks. From the 12 to 17 month age – that will be the time they are starting to walk and pull up, the kids will be in there for about six months. Then, they will transfer to our 18- to 24-months-old class. Once they get into that class, the kids will get to do some more mobile things like going outside, cleaning up art activity and they will have center time in their classrooms. There will be some teaching – learning colors and learning numbers,” she indicated.

The next age group, according to Hill, will be for two-year-olds. The children in this group will continue with center time, along with learning more colors, numbers and shapes.

“The early threes – those who turn three after the Sept. 1 cut-off for public schools – will be doing center time, art time and they will have circle time. They will have special activities and special days like ‘Dress-up Day’ and they will have outside time. We have a new playground behind the center and those are the types of things our kids will be during the day,” Hill explained.

Concerning eligibility for the ELC, Hill said it was open to everyone.

“It doesn’t matter if you work in the district as a teacher or if you’re in Latexo, Slocum, Elkhart, Grapeland, Crockett or any of the surrounding areas, we are welcoming all,” she said.

As the conversation continued, Hill provided a cost break down of the tuition for the ELC.

“The infants – six weeks to 12 months – is $100 per week. The 12 months to 17 months is $95 per week. The children who are 18 months up to the early threes, the cost is $90. There will be a supply fee of $100 upon enrollment and then again in January. That will cover supplies in their classrooms. Also, there will be a one-time, $25 registration fee to take care of all the paperwork needed to get the kids registered,” she said.

The ELC will be open from 6:45 am until 5:45 pm, Monday through Friday.

“This will be year round,” Hill said. “We will be closed on 10 holidays and we will be closed one week in July so they can do deep-cleaning in the center. On Thanksgiving, we will be here Monday through Wednesday and then we’re off Thursday and Friday. During Christmas we will be here the two weeks the kids are out of school (at GISD), other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”

Hill added, “I’m excited to be here in Grapeland. I have lived here for 10 years and I’m excited about the opportunity to be here with Grapeland ISD and to serve the children in our community.”

Parent orientation is scheduled for 6 pm on Thursday, Aug. 1 at the ELC. There will be a Community Open House and Ribbon Cutting on Friday, Aug. 2, also beginning at 6 pm at the ELC.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.