Child care center moves to former St. Ladislaus campus





by BRIAN NADIG

The nonprofit Kidwatch Plus Educational Child Care Center has moved to a new home on the campus of the former Saint Ladislaus School, 3330 N. Lockwood Ave.

For 33 years the center leased space in the former Alvernia High School building, 3901 N. Ridgeway Ave. After the high school closed in 1989, the Chicago Public Schools acquired the property, and in recent years the center shared the Ridgeway campus with Marshall Middle School and Disney II Magnet School.

Plans to create a high school program at Disney, which opened initially as a grammar school, forced the center to find a new home, and Marshall recently moved to Roosevelt High School, 3426 W. Wilson Ave.

Center executive director Kathryn Barnaby said that the center’s lease with the Chicago Public Schools expired in 2015 but that several lease extensions allowed the center to remain open while a one-story building at Saint Ladislaus was renovated to accommodate the center. "We were closed for just one day, moving day," she said. "It all worked out."

The center accepts children as young as 6 weeks old and through pre-school.

At its Irving Park location, the center operated at its capacity of 125, but current enrollment is 80, Barnaby said. She said that some parents looked elsewhere due to the uncertainty over where the center would move, and once the location was determined, it was not convenient for some families, she said.

News that the Chicago Board of Education would not renew the center’s lease for its Ridgeway location was well publicized, and many parents took their concerns to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, local aldermen and the media.

Barnaby said that the support that the center received from parents can be attributed to the philosophy that her mother, Mary Brophy, adopted when she founded the center. "We start educating as early as 6 months old," she said. "We’re not just a day care. We’re educationally based. It’s not just babysitting."

The children are read to at an early age in both English and Spanish, and Polish is being added to the curriculum due to the demographics of the Portage Park area, Barnaby said.

Barnaby said that when the center’s children leave the program for kindergarten, they are usually are performing at a first grade level. "I’d say half our kids start out at a gifted or classical school," she said.

The center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It relies solely on tuition income to fund its programming, Barnaby said. It has been accredited by the National Association of the Education of Young Children.

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