Learning center gets state accreditation

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The ABC 123 Learning Center in Cape Girardeau was notified March 12 that it has become the first full-time child-care facility in Cape Girardeau to receive state accreditation.

The center, at 429 Optimist Drive, is now both licensed and accredited by the state.

A licensed facility concentrates on the health and safety of the children, while an accredited facility also focuses on educational development, said Cathy Friga, who owns the center with her husband, David.

Accredited facilities have trained teachers who make up lesson plans. Success By 6, a United Way of Southeast Missouri initiative, helped pay for scholarships for the child-care providers to receive their training. Success By 6 also helped with the curriculum and the accreditation process.

Friga said being accredited is important because more and more children spend their time in day care while their parents are either at school or at work. In addition to having a safe environment, she said, it's important that children get a good start in learning before going off to school.

"Being accredited means someone is watching over me saying, 'This can be better,'" Friga said. "This ensures that I can say we are doing all of these things so we can give them the best we have."

ABC 123 opened in 2001 with six children; it now has 38 children ages 2 through 6. Friga said the ratio of teachers to children depends on the children's age.

'Go like clockwork'

Activities include cooking and many activities designed to aid in language development skills. The children, even the 2-year-olds, keep a journal, and the teachers talk with them about what they draw or write in it. There are art activities, computer activities and building blocks.

"The teachers write lesson plans and build on a theme," Friga said. "If you have a lesson plan in front of you and know what you're going to do for that day, the activities go like clockwork. When the kids are busy they are learning."

Before becoming accredited, the facility staff had to do a self-study guided by Missouri Accreditation, a part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Once the six teachers identified their goals, a state review team spent a 12-hour day observing the staff, going through materials and making recommendations. The facility is judged on more than 100 quality indicators in such areas as children's relationships, physical environment, curriculum, safety and nutrition.

After two years, Friga and her staff will go through the self-study process all over again to be reaccredited. A year is added between accreditation after that.

Jim Watkins, who oversees the Success By 6 program for the local United Way, said that 15 other child-care centers and home providers in the area are working toward accreditation. Only one other center is accredited: the University Child Day Clinic at Southeast Missouri State University, which is a part-time center.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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