Mt. Hood center a resource for daycare, kindergarten readiness on the mountain

Mt. Hood Learning Center, a new option for childcare and preschool in the Welches area, will provide a new resource for after-school care and kindergarten readiness on the mountain.

In early September 2013, one of Welches’ few childcare centers closed. Preschools are also few in Welches; there is only one small option.

After realizing that options were shrinking, a group of moms decided to do something about it. They planned to start a preschool and daycare center for the Welches community. In August, the Mt. Hood Learning Center will open its doors.

Due to an availability of unused classrooms, the learning center will operate out of the Welches school. “We just got final approval about two weeks ago,” said Jocelyn Van Hee, a board member for Mt. Hood Learning Center.

The center will provide before- and after-school care for children ages 3-13, with a main focus on ages 3-10, Monday through Friday from 7-9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Preschool classes will take place Monday through Friday from 9-11:30 a.m.

While the childcare program is designed as an educational after-school program with a focus on music, art and homework help, the preschool program will focus on setting the stage for kids to think learning is fun. “We’ll incorporate nature, music and art while also focusing on the core skills needed for kindergarten,” Van Hee said.

Kindergarten readiness is becoming more important in the Oregon Trail School District, and Welches has few options for pre-kindergarten education.

“Sandy has a lot of options,” Van Hee said, “but they get full fast.” She said many families up on the mountain aren’t able to come that far to drop off their kids.

“The more programs the merrier,” she said.

The Mt. Hood Learning Center mission states: “Children will develop school readiness skills but will also foster a passion for learning through a hands-on program here in the Welches community.”

When incoming kindergartners start in the Oregon Trail School District, teachers want them to know the names of the different letters, be able to write their name and recognize the individual letters and be able to count to 10, said Debbie Johnson, the district’s director of teaching and learning.

But students are also expected to have the social and emotional skills needed for kindergarten, such as following one-step directions and respecting personal space.

Some schools offer a Jump Start program that teaches pre-kindergarten skills to students who need the most help.

“In every classroom there are going to be challenges,” said Johnson. “Some kids come in ready to read and write while others may just have the minimum level skills.”

Sandy Grade School’s Jump Start program teaches children and their parents the skills to be prepared for school. The kids learn the base literary skills such as holding a pencil and writing their names, while their parents watch teacher and student interaction to learn how they can help their children learn skills at home.

The Jump Start program, which runs for 11 half-days, three days a week, provides kids with books they can begin reading with their parents. One of those books is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” While following the book, the students also get to watch a group of caterpillars in their transformation, adding a scientific element as well.

They also will learn to work in small peer groups.

Sandy Grade kindergarten teacher Lindsay Jacksha says developing those skills prior to kindergarten is greatly important to her job. “We’re off and running on day one,” she said.

“You’re always going to have kids who are in different places,” Johnson said.

And that’s where teachers come in, said Sandy Grade Principal Deb Odell.

With many parents concerned about the changes in academic standards, Johnson stressed that schools are not pushing students just for the sake of pushing. “We’re laying the groundwork so they can maximize their potential,” she said. “We’re asking a lot more, and they’re getting a lot farther.”

“It’s a whole grade step above when I was kindergarten,” said Jacksha. “There’s more academic focus.”

“It’s remarkable what 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds can do,” Johnson said. “They’re capable of so much more.”

There are things parents can do to help with readiness at home as well. “The very first step is reading to your child every day,” Johnson said. “It can be as simple as talking to your child.”

For more information on kindergarten readiness, including informational videos, visit

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