State College

One-stop shop: Preschool Fair allows parents to examine child-care options

Centre Daily Times

With 15 child service programs at the eighth annual Preschool Fair on Saturday, the Marion family may have found just what they were looking for.

“We want a place that’s going to feel like you’re dropping off your kids at a family member’s house, while we’re at work,” said Ferguson Township resident Joni Marion. “We want a place that, while we’re out for the day, the kids can learn a little something – not just be a babysitter.”

Tom and Joni Marion have 2-year-old twins, Cameron and Elsa.

On Saturday morning, the couple was doing research of preschools they want to enroll their girls in next year that will prepare the toddlers for kindergarten.

Sponsored by Mothers & More, and hosted at the State College Area High School South Building, fair director Melissa MacNeely said the event aimed to bring multiple preschools to potential clients at one venue.

“It’s a convenient way to bring their options to them,” MacNeely said. “They can look at the preschools and programs, and narrow down their search and find anything from Montessori schools or faith-based preschools or really anything they’re looking for.”

MacNeely said each year the event attracts 75 to 100 families.

“What we find is a lot of the families are looking for a second home for their child while they’re not around, and a place that child can thrive socially and academically,” MacNeely said.

Kerry Looper, a teacher at Abba’s House, off Benner Pike, said she takes potential families through a day in the life of their program, discusses enrollment options and assures them there is an education component to the program while being nurturing in the meantime.

The facility expanded its preschool to four classes last month to serve an extra 100 children, said assistant director Kim Stubblefield.

The daycare and preschool serves children from 6 weeks to 5 years old.

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center has a new program called Puddle Jumpers that brings an environmental aspect to child education, said Melissa Freed, program coordinator.

“When they come in, we want to make sure we’re going outdoors and learning about the nature while still providing them with basics of learning letters and numbers and more,” Freed said. “It’s a nature program for preschoolers, but they get a lot of outdoor activity and education through exploration.”

The program was established in the fall of 2013, and currently has about a dozen kids with two leaders.

The Preschool Fair equally helped the mission of the Pre-K for PA campaign, said Tracy Weaver, outreach and communications coordinator of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, that represents the initiative.

Pre-K for PA is a statewide campaign started last year to help bring funding to provide kids with the opportunity to attend a quality preschool.

In Centre County, about 45 percent of children attend high quality preschools, Weaver said. “High quality” is based on what facilities are certified and/or accredited by the state, Weaver added.

“We figured out there is a need for early education and are asking for funding to help support that,” Weaver said. “This fair is helping our mission by reaching out to families and exposing them to what is offered so they can get a head start on education that helps in the long run.”

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