by ALEXANDRA RETTER
A new early childhood education option will be available in Winona this fall when the St. Martin’s Lutheran Church Early Learning Center opens on September 1.
The center, which is located at 312 East Broadway, will serve children ages two to pre-kindergarten and feature a full-time, year-round program. The center will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate the various pick-up and drop-off times that are most convenient for caregivers. Focus will be placed on curriculum between about 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The curriculum will include topics such as math, science, language arts, dramatic play and Christian-based education.
“This is Christian faith-based, but we welcome students of all faiths and backgrounds,” Executive Director Melissa Buss stated.
Getting students ready to enter elementary school is a top priority, Program Director Renae Vinton shared. “We believe this center is going to give them all the tools they need to reach that goal of … getting them prepared for kindergarten, which we know is a big step in a young child’s life, and in parents’ also,” Vinton noted.
Center-based learning will take place in the classrooms. In center-based learning, certain areas of the classroom contain materials for specific subjects. “One center might be a reading area,” Buss said. “They’re [the centers] all in the same room, but they’re in different areas, so the child knows, ‘When you’re in this area, this is what’s happening.’”
This set up will allow teachers to monitor student progress and multi-task while delivering curriculum, Vinton explained.
Vinton added that involving caregivers in children’s education is another goal. Caregivers will be regularly updated on their children’s learning via methods including face-to-face conversations and emails. There will be parent-teacher conferences twice a year as well.
The center features four classrooms and can serve 74 students. Buss said the center is bright and sunny, and Vinton said the classrooms are large. Buss added that there is a separate playground connected to the classrooms.
“They created such a nice, safe environment … including open spaces,” Vinton shared. “It’s just very easy to navigate, too, from room to room, with nice open corridors and hallways.”
A company in the early childhood education field was consulted on classroom design, Buss noted. “They’ve helped facilitate all the furniture and colors and tools and toys we’ll be using in each classroom, and they helped us arrange it in a way that’s going to promote successful learning experiences,” Buss stated.
State guidance regarding social distancing and sanitizing will be followed, Buss said. She added that the opening of the center on September 1 is not anticipated to be delayed due to the pandemic.
Construction of the building in which the center is housed began in June 2019. The first floor, which will be home to the center and St. Martin’s Lutheran School, is complete. The second level, which will house Hope Lutheran High School, is scheduled to be finished before this November.
Those interested in inquiring about enrolling children at the center or being employed as a teacher at the center may visit the center’s Facebook page or call 507-452-6928. Applications for students and teachers are being accepted now.