A new option for childcare
Myla Mason, one of the first children to attend Leo Augusta Children’s Academy, holds the hand of infant room teacher Katie Crabtree as the pair enter the building. The child care-education facility opened for business on June 23. Staff photo by Kay Fate
It’s a project unlike any in the area, and it’s open for business.
Leo Augusta Children’s Academy in Blooming Prairie has started welcoming families, on the heels of its final round of inspections and licensing by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The first children came through the doors June 23.
The 10,000-square-foot building that houses the majority of the classrooms is equipped with multiple cameras and features a secure entrance with buzzer system.
The main building features a commercial kitchen with a window into the STEM/arts and activity room, allowing the children to watch what’s happening in the kitchen.
“One of our goals and missions is hands-on learning,” Amy Hinzmann, chairwoman of the LACA Board of Directors, said during a tour in March.
Each age level – infant, toddler, preschool and school-age – will have two rooms to accommodate the children.
There is a laundry facility near the infant rooms.
The preschool rooms are separated by gating, each accommodating 20 children and each with its own restroom.
Also on the property is an 8,000-square-foot building that includes a gymnasium, classroom and other amenities.
“I think we’re unique; I don’t know that there’s a model exactly like this with what we’re going to provide,” said Doug Anderson, executive director of the academy. He spent 25 years as a teacher, followed by another 11 years as the principal of NRHEG Elementary School.
“We’re going to have not only the child care piece, but a strong emphasis on education,” he said.
“When we think about ourselves, we’re not a daycare, we’re not a school,” Hinzmann agreed. “We’re a child care and education center, and what makes us really unique is the property, first. It’s so large.”
They were able to create play areas for each age level as well, using “strategic” fencing and an expanse of green space, providing three times the room required for each child by state licensing.
The whole idea behind the LACA model is hands-on demonstrations.
If there’s passion behind it, “success usually follows,” Anderson said.
The curriculum they’ll use will address cognitive, social-emotional and physical pieces that are “important to growth and development,” he said. “I can hardly wait for a couple years to pass, and hear the difference that the district notices when children enter kindergarten. They will be well-prepared.”
A 2018 survey indicated there are 884 children in a 20-mile radius of Blooming Prairie who need adequate, quality child care; more than 100 of those are in Blooming Prairie.
“We do have family providers in Blooming Prairie who are doing the best they can, but they only have so much capacity, so this will certainly help give parents additional options,” Hinzmann said.
LACA is able to serve 144 children, from infants through age 12.