Zearing Child Enrichment Center News
PRINCETON — Two Princeton childcare centers are merging their resources and programs into one.
On Monday, Zearing Child Enrichment Center (ZCEC) Executive Director Andrea Anderson and Learning Ladder Director Heidi Lott confirmed the merger will take place as soon as final red tape and licensing by the Department of Children and Family Services is completed, hopefully by Nov. 28.
The merger is a win/win partnership for both facilities, their children and their families, Anderson said. Both Learning Ladder and ZCEC have a rich history of providing quality care for area children and, by merging, the new united program will become even stronger, she said.
The new partnership will continue under the name of Zearing Child Enrichment Center, with the children meeting at the ZCEC site, located 633 Masonic Drive, Anderson said.
Learning Ladder has already hosted a parents meeting to explain the merger and answer any questions, with ZCEC to host its parents meeting tonight, Tuesday, Anderson said. An open house will be scheduled in early November so Learning Ladder children and families will have the opportunity to see their new classrooms and become familiar with the setting, she said.
“I know there is always a certain level of concern when there is any change, but we are doing everything we can to make the transition as seamless as possible for our children and families,” Anderson said. “The children will see the same staff in the building every day, the same quality care will be given to each child. We will continue to make every effort to set an environment in which children can grow and thrive.”
On a personal note, Anderson said she was the first director for Learning Ladder when it was begun about 11 years ago by the Ace Hardware Retail Support Center to provide Ace employees with a corporate child care center. Through the years, Learning Ladder, which has expanded to include non-Ace families, has consistently proven to be a high quality, caring facility, she said.
“I know the Learning Ladder program very well and its high expectations for providing quality childcare,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to be merging our two programs into one. I really do think it’s a win/win partnership for everyone.”
Both the Zearing Child Enrichment Center, which started originally as the Bureau County Day Care Center in 1974, and the Learning Ladder program serve ages 6 weeks to 12 years.
As far as other logistics of the coming merger, Anderson said the new partnership will keep all staff from both facilities. Through previous professional training and educational opportunities, many staff members already know each other. The two staffs have already gotten together for pizza and social time, Anderson said.
With the merger, Anderson said her new title will be director of organizational development and Lott will be the director of educational development. Lisa Vincent, currently at Zearing, will remain as financial manager for the merged program. The current Zearing board will remain in place, with an invitation to Ace and the Illinois Valley Community College, which oversees the Learning Ladder educational program, to submit candidates for the board.
Looking to the future, Anderson said childcare is a changing, progressing profession.
“In childhood care, we are always evolving,” Anderson said. “We started more as a nurturing program and now we have evolved to include an educational program. By merging our Learning Ladder and ZCEC programs, we can continue strive for excellence in every area.”