LORAIN — Horizon Education Centers is opening its first preschool program Monday.
At a ribbon-cutting Wednesday, Horizon Education Centers and Constellation Schools staff and trustees unveiled the new program, which will be housed at the Constellation School’s building on West Fourth Street.
“Our hope is to have this program full with 20 students, getting them ready for kindergarten at Constellation,” said Cathy Heck, chief operations officer for Horizon Education Centers.
Right now, four kids will start the program next week — two with no preschool experience and two transferring from other schools. Starting with one teacher, Heather LaMore, Horizon Education Centers lead preschool teacher, it will keep a 10-to-1 ratio and add another staff member as needed.
The preschool classroom is housed in what originally was a high school machine shop, meaning it has its own entrance where parents can buzz in and out — and their little ones can avoid navigating the halls with the older students.
“It’s very cute and this area will actually give them the ability to do some large motor things, dancing and things like that,” Heck said.
Thomas Babb, chief financial officer for Constellation Schools, said the preschool has been “a long time coming.”
“We’ve had a good working relationship with Horizon Educational Centers for several years with an after-school program to help our students improve their skills and improve their educational experience,” he said. “So when we had the opportunity to look at a preschool, we looked at it as an opportunity for both of us. One for Horizon to have a footprint here in this neighborhood and for us, a way to bring students into our school and families into our schools to see what kind of a school we have and hopefully encourage those families to put their children in our schools.”
Rebecca Keeney, executive director of Constellation schools, agreed. She said the program will provide children with a solid foundation while providing them and their parents an opportunity to see the charter’s building.
“The preschool definitely benefits them when they move into the educational setting in any school, so that is very beneficial for the students and their families,” she said. “I think the students coming into our schools now don’t necessarily have all that foundation that they need to start, so this is going to be really helpful for them to start at a younger age.”
One eager preschooler, 3-year-old Jacob Velez was at the ribbon-cutting with his parents, getting a sneak preview of his new school. His older brother, Xavier, 6, is in first grade at Constellation Schools, prompting parents Cassie Donato and Aaron Velez to enroll their second child in the new program.
“Especially with the Horizon partnership — I didn’t know it was going to be Horizon — I thought it was going to be the Constellation Schools, so I know they have a lot of awards and all of that,”Donato said.
Velez agreed and said Jacob was excited to visit the classroom — talking about it days beforehand.
“I told him we were coming today to meet his teachers and see his school and he said, ‘You can’t go, I’m going to have homework,’” he said, laughing.
For more information, to set up a tour or to enroll in the program, visit horizonohio.org.