Acacia Learning Center at Stapleton doesn’t just want to serve the community, they want to be part of it for a very long time. The newly constructed early childhood center, slated to open Aug. 17 at 2050 Uinta St., will offer childcare for children ages 6 weeks through age 12. The nonprofit center is partnered with St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, which will build a new church on the site in phase 2 of the project.
“We want the entire community to know they have a home at Acacia—so we really want to be part of the community and the whole family,” says Erin Jones, the center’s executive director. Jones, who has a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology and audiology, a master’s in early childhood education with special education endorsements and a doctorate in teacher leadership, says families do not need to be members of the St. Stephens congregation to send their children to Acacia. “We don’t believe our mission is to teach religion per se but we will be doing prayers before meals, maybe a Christian-based story and song along with secular ones, integrated into the normal day,” she says, adding “I want everyone who walks through the doors to feel comfortable here.”
Acacia will have 11 classrooms and will occupy approximately 18,000 square feet of the building. A temporary sanctuary for St. Stephens will also be housed in the building until the new church is complete. At that point, Acacia will utilize the additional space for the center.
For children in the infant program, ages 6 weeks through 12 months, full-time enrollment is required. Jones says this is considered “best practice” to allow teachers to really get to know the babies and their schedules and to assign one crib per baby. “If a parent doesn’t want full-time care, the day and week is theirs to use as they want whether they come less or full time,” Jones explains. After one year, options with fewer days are offered. For school-age children, Acacia will offer before- and after-school care and summer programs up through age 12. Jones says the student-to-teacher ratios will be at, or lower than state requirements, with at least two teachers assigned to each room plus floaters to cover breaks.
A typical day at the center varies depending on the age group but will include choice time, sensory activities and the use of manipulatives, time for stories, lessons, songs and rest plus breakfast, lunch and snacks. Children will also have outside time on three playgrounds geared to different age groups and abilities. “It’s one of the nicest centers I’ve ever seen,” says Jones, who has worked in and opened early-childhood centers throughout Colorado and in Oregon. Once the center has been open a few months, Jones hopes to incorporate programs in language, music and movement and to involve the community and students from neighboring schools.
Acacia’s focus, according to managing consultant Nelson Eagle, is on individual assessment, targeting skill level and helping children master current and new skills, incorporating five areas of development: social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical. “Teacher interaction is a key to this program, encouraging children to question why things happen or why they work, challenging children to try new things that reinforce skills, and start the acquisition of new skills,” says Nelson.
Every teacher will have tablets or laptops that will enable them to communicate with families throughout the day if needed. Classrooms will be video-monitored so parents can come in and discreetly see how their child is doing. Jones feels this will be especially helpful if there has been a difficult drop-off experience.
Registration is currently open for Acacia Learning Center of Stapleton. To join a group tour, email Erin Jones at EJones@AcaciaStapleton.com or call 303.250.2028. Open houses will be held Saturday, Aug. 1 and 8 from 11am until 12pm. Tentatively, the grand opening event is scheduled for Aug. 15. Check the website for final information: www.acaciastapleton.com/.