By Leah Sander
LARWILL — Area families looking to give their children a head start on learning now have another option.
The Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon-cutting for the Little Cats Early Learning Center on Monday, Aug. 9. It’s located at the Whitko Career Academy, 710 SR 5, Larwill.
The Center includes both preschool and early learning as well as child care. The former is open to the public, including those who live outside the Whitko Community Schools’ district. For right now, child care for ages 0-2 is being offered only for Whitko staff and students.
Before the ribbon-cutting, several people spoke including the Center’s Director of Early Learning Jamie Paino, WCA Director Joe Luce, Whitko Superintendent Tim Pivarnik and Kosciusko County LaunchPad Director Sherry Searles.
“Everybody knows that if you’re in the right early learning center, all it does for children is it gives them a better chance to get started once they step into kindergarten, once they begin those first years of school,” said Luce. “And so we hope to have a facility … with the great staff led by Jamie, that’s going to allow our students and students from other communities that are here in our facility to hopefully just become better students and really … at an early age ready to learn.”
Pivarnik recalled he had gone to a luncheon put on by the Chamber that mentioned the need for the type of service the Center is going to provide.
Searles also commented on the need for child care in Kosciusko County. LaunchPad focuses on improving child care and early learning in the county.
“We are a child care desert, meaning we only have one seat for every three children that need care in the county,” she said. “So we’re so excited to support this program, to work alongside Joe to make this happen and so congratulations and great job moving it forward on such a quick timeline.”
Paino said her commitment to helping children learn through the Center. She previously was a teacher for Warsaw Community Schools for 13 years.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for being a positive part in the lives of children,” she said. “Today, children face more challenges than ever before, which makes the foundational years from birth to preschool even more crucial.”
“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to lead Whitko early childhood learning in developing each of our students educationally, emotionally and socially,” she continued. “I along with our dedicated team, whom I have some of my teammates here … and we look forward to serving the community through … our program … and we can’t wait to see the program blossom and provide (numerous) learning opportunities for children.”
Paino later talked about how the Center differs from daycare.
“There are a lot of daycares, but what’s different about this is that it has a full curriculum, certified teachers and it will get the children ready for kindergarten and the curriculum builds from infant to age 5, so we use the same curriculum, it’s just developmentally different for infants, toddlers,” she said.
She added the cost for the preschool is on a sliding scale, which makes it more affordable for parents.
Though the Center opens this week with the rest of Whitko Community Schools, there are still spots available for the preschool. Parents are welcome to sign up their children even after this week.
To do so and to learn more information about the Center, people should go to littlecatsearlylearningcenter.com.