Next year, Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School will welcome a new group of students onto its Midtown Memphis campus: 2-year-olds.
Officials at the private school for students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade recently announced the addition of a new program for 2-year-olds and young 3s at its Miss Lee’s Preschool. The Little Lukers program will open in 2013, and applications are being accepted through Jan. 15.
“We’ve been doing careful study and have put a lot of thought into Little Lukers,” said Thor Kvande, head of school. “We really feel like this is an opportunity for us to respond to parents and prospective parents who have been asking for this type of program.”
Little Lukers will be a five-day program with half-day (8 a.m. to noon) or full-day (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) options. Free early-morning care beginning at 7 a.m. will be available, and after-school care until 6 p.m. will be offered for an additional monthly fee.
The program is one way the school is attempting to assist parents juggling full schedules, Kvande said. Seventy-five percent of Grace-St. Luke’s student body comes from dual-working families.
“I think one of our strongest points as a school is our sense of community. We support each other here,” he said. “We hope Little Lukers will meet the needs of our working families who are looking for a quality, co-ed academic environment for children of all ages.”
The role of early childhood education is becoming increasingly important in the lives of American families. Before 1960, fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s children attended preschool. Today, that figure has increased to nearly 60 percent, according to a report from the Child Trends Databank.
Kvande says a 2009 expansion and renovation of the school’s existing Miss Lee’s Preschool facility helped make Little Lukers possible. Jennifer Vest, head of the preschool, will oversee the program, which will be based on best practices developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Founded in 1926, NAEYC is the world’s largest organization for professionals working with and on behalf of children from birth to age 8. Its NAEYC Academy sets and monitors research-based standards for high-quality early childhood education programs and accredits programs that meet those standards. In particular, the organization emphasizes a philosophy of play-based learning and developmentally appropriate instruction methods.
According to the NAEYC, students in the 3- to 6-year age group should have the opportunity to spend the majority of their time playing, working with hands-on materials and interacting with their peers. Early childhood educators also should strive to work with individuals and small groups throughout the day instead of leading whole group sessions.
“Miss Lee’s has been NAEYC-accredited for many years, giving us a strong background to develop a program reflective of best educational practices for young children,” Kvande said.
Currently, approximately 100 students are enrolled in the preschool, with a student-teacher ratio of 9-to-1.
Kvande says other characteristics that set the initiative apart from other early childhood education programs in the area are the qualities that make Grace-St. Luke’s a distinctive learning environment as a whole.
“Our Episcopal faith tradition is at the core of everything we do here,” Kvande said. “It gives us a sense of community and creates a supportive environment for our students.”
In addition, the school’s co-ed nature allows parents to keep siblings together in its private-school environment, and parents often express appreciation for this benefit.
“We also have excellent teachers who are fully invested in our students’ education,” Kvande said. “We’re extremely proud of what they bring to the table.”
School officials announced the Little Lukers program Tuesday, Dec. 11, in an email to parents and faculty members. Since then, Kvande says the response has been tremendous. Initially, the program will consist of a class of 12 students, although the school may add an additional class if demand merits it.
Grace-St. Luke’s will host an open house at 10:45 a.m. Jan. 12 at Miss Lee’s Preschool for parents interested in the preschool as well as Little Lukers. Parents seeking more information on the program also can visit gslschool.org.