A new childcare facility will soon be available in Effingham for parents of young children. Montessori Kids Universe, which will officially open on Monday, offers care for children aged six weeks to 6 years.
The new day care center is located in the technology park at the north end of the city and is set up to care for 95 children, with rooms for toddlers, 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds and rooms for a mixed class of 3 to 6-year-olds.
The school offers all-day care from Monday to Friday from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Unique to Effingham, the school uses the Montessori teaching method for its teaching.
“It’s self-managed,” said the center’s owner, Jordan Jansen. “There are several activities that focus on independence.”
Montessori education was originally developed in early 20th century Italy and uses simple wooden and cloth toys to teach basic skills such as object persistence and spatial thinking. Instead of formal lessons given to all students at the same time, individual students play and learn on their own, helping one another with minimal guidance from staff.
“MKU is not a Montessori purist,” remarked Jansen.
The school also uses a style inspired by a similar approach to Reggio Emilia, another self-directed and experiential style of teaching.
Part of the business that the husband and co-owner of Jordan Jansen is proud of is that they offer an all-day preschool for 3-6 year olds. These students receive a range of lessons including sensory skills, reading, writing, cooking, music, and even yoga and foreign languages.
The school is run by the headmistress Tiffanee Hartke. Before working for Montessori Kids Universe, Hartke worked as a licensed childcare worker at home for ten years.
The number of enrollments at the school changes from day to day, but at the time of this writing there are still places available.
Katie Weber’s two children are among the enrolled students. Weber and her husband are both employed and in the childcare market because their 4 year old is ready for preschool. Like many parents, she lacked opportunities.
“There is definitely a need in our area,” said Weber.
“I think it sounds really exciting. It sounds like a unique environment to study, ”she added.
Brad and Jordan Jansen, the school’s co-owners, decided to start the company after facing the lack of childcare options in their own lives.
When Jordan wanted to go back to school and work after staying home to look after their children, they were struck by the reality that many parents in Effingham face: no one had any vacancies.
“We called everywhere and basically laughed,” Brad joked. “They said, ‘You don’t know, do you?'”
The Jansens had discovered the “childcare crisis” in Effingham.
Since Brad wanted to reduce the distance to work after working in Terre Haute and was interested in starting a business, the couple decided to open a daycare center.
“It hit me: there must be franchises in childcare,” said Brad. This will be the 14th location of the Montessori Kids Universe, with additional locations on the east coast and in the south.
“We love the company and the people,” added Jordan.
The new business is likely to ease some, but not all, of the pressures on Effingham’s childcare industry.
Meghan Rewers, the executive director of Crisis Nursery of Effingham County, is very familiar with the lack of childcare in Effingham. Your organization supports families in immediate need, for example when a medical or mental crisis arises and parents need support, and it has engaged a group of child care services that are trying to manage the crisis.
“Our community has grown so much faster than our childcare offerings,” said Rewers. “Not enough people go into the field.”
Though estimates vary, there are around half as many childcare places in Effingham as out of school age children. Project CHILD, a non-profit education and advocacy group, estimated in the summer of 2019 that there are 2,292 children under 5 in Effingham County and only 1,318 childcare places are available.
“Montessori Kids Universe is such a blessing because there will be childcare places in our community,” said Rewers.