Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 10, 2013

THE PROGRESS REPORT: Troup early education program nurtures

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

TROUP —  When the local school district first opened a child care center on the First Baptist Church facility in 2005, its intention was to attract and keep teachers by providing for their young families.

It never expected to create a sense of family among the teaching staff and the families it served.

“When parents usually come, they look for cleanliness, they look for social interaction (between) teacher and child,” said Judy Daniel, who has been director of the program since it first opened its doors.

Then they realize “we're just a big family here. I've got to say that the one thing our parents do like is that their kids like to come here … it's the teachers who really make this family,” she added, describing the strong bond her faculty has with both students and their families.

“They just love the kids, they'll do anything for them and their parents. If I didn't have the staff that I do, I don't think we would have the (sense of) family we've got here,” she said. “We've got a great staff there – one teacher has been here since we opened and the rest have been here more than five years. So, we have a great retention rate with our teachers. They're really good with the kids.”

The program – licensed through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – accepts newborn infants up to preschool age children who turn four by the beginning of September, and currently has an enrollment of 35 in two infant classes, a toddler class and preschool classes. A six-member faculty serves the program: five teachers and a teaching aide, along with Daniel and a custodian.

Three teachers have their child development associate certification, while all staff have required hours of training.

The center's maximum capacity enrollment is 61. When the center sees those kinds of numbers, two additional teachers and another aide are brought on.

However, the center's focus isn't on making numbers, but being able to provide structure and routine that will help prepare a child for life as a grade-school student.

Because it is hard for small children to transition to a school setting in general, “a lot of parents want their children to be in a daycare or pre-K program … for the social aspect,” Daniel pointed out. “When kids first start to socialize with other kids, it's hard for them to learn how to share, and then to learn the routines, so we have a daily routine that's very similar to the school setting. They have a schedule they follow during the day, just like the school does. Children need structure. They want structure.”

While the program bears the name of the local school district, it operates independently of the school and is completely tuition-driven. In fact, the only district-related aspect is how the child care center operates its preschool component.

“We follow (Texas Education Agency) guidelines for prekindergarten, using the same curriculum that the local elementary uses for their pre-K program,” Daniel said. “When (students from the program) get into kindergarten they'll test them, and they keep up – our kids have always done well.”

Tuition for full-day child care for the youngest group, infants and toddlers, is set at $110 per week, while cost for the two-year-old class is $105 weekly and $100 weekly for children ages three and four. Payment is due in advance and payable at the beginning of the school week.

There is a one-time registration fee of $50; a daily fee of $3.50 covers breakfast, lunch and snacks. A $50 supplies and materials fee is assessed in August and February, while a $100 fee is assessed to reserve childcare for the new school year.  

Both tuition and fees are non-refundable.

As the program continues to blossom, and Daniel's team reaches out to other districts seeking to create similar child care facilities, she said they've encountered “no hiccups or anything.

“It's been really smooth,” she said. “It's just a good fit (between the district, the church and the community).”

The Troup ISD Child Care Center is located at 935 Texas Highway 135 South, inside the First Baptist Church facilities, and operates from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, as well as for two days at the end of July to allow for staff training. Tuition discounts are offered to families with multiple children in the program.

For more information, contact Director Judy Daniel at 903-842-4020.