St. Pius X Elementary School in Cedar Rapids has caught the early childhood education bug.
Construction began in November on a building adjacent to the elementary school's 4901 Council St. NE location. The structure, set to open in August 2014, will house preschool for children ages 3 through 5 as well as before-and-after childcare for infants through age 5.
The space has the capacity for 242 students, and 35 already have enrolled.
“The school board has been working on that actually for quite some time,” said Jeff Henderson, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which includes St. Pius X and the Xavier Catholic Schools system.
A survey of area parents revealed that families were seeking more options for preschool and infant care, “regardless of whether they were Catholic,” Henderson said.
The new center will be "very similar" to St. Matthew Early Childhood Center, which shares a facility with St. Matthew Elementary School, another member of the Xavier Catholic Schools system.
St. Pius operates a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds out of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church in Hiawatha. That program and its staff will shift to the St. Pius X Early Learning Center once it opens.
St. Pius has a Panther Playhouse before-and-after school daycare program for the building’s students, but that is not an option for preschool students.
“The main reason we’re moving it over here is to be more accommodating to parents,” said Brian O’Donnell, St. Pius X principal, who will work with the center’s director once an individual is hired to fill that role. “We felt that wraparound day care would give families more opportunities … . We really want to expand giving people faith-filled learning at a young age.”
O’Donnell said that population growth in the area was another reason for St. Pius to explore this new venture.
“It’s amazing how Hiawatha and Robins are growing,” he said. “So you hope you’re getting some of (those families), too.”
Full-time child care rates range from $170 weekly per prekindergarten student, which includes preschool tuition, to $205 weekly for children under 12 months old.
Preschool will be offered from 9 a.m. to noon or 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. twice a week for 3-year-olds, and three times a week for 4-year-olds, with tuition ranging from $126 to $240 monthly. A session for 4- and 5-year-olds will run every weekday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a monthly cost of $375 per student.
O’Donnell said one upside of the new center is its proximity to St. Pius X Elementary School. Not only will that be more convenient for families with elementary and preschool-aged children, but it also might have benefits for the elementary building.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback. We’ve had a lot of inquiries,” O’Donnell said.“We’re also hoping that being so close, they can see all of the wonderful things our school is doing and they’ll want to stay.”