The Collaborative Learning Center, a new model of preschool for students ages 2 to 6, will open Aug. 3 near Texas A&M University.
The preschool, located at 1411 Hensel St. in College Station, is the first phase of the Intergenerational Learning Center, which is a joint project between the Texas A&M University System and private businesses that will include the preschool and a tiered senior living center.
The preschool is licensed for 263 students, CLC Executive Director Vicki Gibson said, but she does not anticipate reaching that number. She expects the school to open at half-capacity on Aug. 3 to give students and staff — two teachers and a teaching assistant per classroom — a comfortable space with the future of COVID-19 unknown, she said.
“We’ve just got to get a system and get the staff all feeling comfortable,” she said. “If that requires more space, then the whole thing’s open, but the whole number of children won’t be.”
TAMU System Chancellor John Sharp, Texas A&M College of Education Dean Joyce Alexander, Gibson and private developers broke ground on the project in January 2019.
The private, for-profit preschool sits on land owned by the university system, Gibson said, and the second floor has been leased out to the Texas A&M College of Education and includes private offices, adult classrooms and conference rooms.
Established with 12 classrooms, the school will operate in suites of students based on age. Four of those classrooms will be connected to an observation room in which preservice teachers and other approved visitors can view the goings on in the classrooms through two-way glass, so the students are unaware of the guests.
Gibson said this observation space and training area, which has audio and video capabilities, is a first of its kind in the country.
“It’s the first time that the College of Ed and other colleges within the university all are going to collaborate to conduct some research and also demonstrate best practices and provide real-world, on-the-ground training for some of our students,” she said.
As part of the agreement, Gibson noted, the CLC has shared use of the classroom and conference space upstairs with the college, and A&M students have access — with prior approval — to the observation room.
It will be an operational preschool, she said, but also serve as a training and, in some cases, research facility.
Beyond the classroom and the training and learning opportunities, the facility also will feature Sophie, a 19-month-old, Canine Good Citizen-certified goldendoodle. With all the required training, Gibson said, Sophie can help calm students and make them feel more comfortable in the school.
The intergenerational aspect of the project has been pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, she said, there will be multiple high-rise buildings near the preschool that will house the tiered senior living centers, with a community area between the two complexes for families.
Construction on the buildings has been paused due to the pandemic, Gibson said, but she has reached out to a local senior living facility that when it is safe to do so, their residents will be allowed to come into the facility and talk with the students either in person or through the large windows.
If any seniors do not want to work with the preschool students, she said, they will have the option to work with the college students or with students who participate in the after-school program for students up to age 12. The after-school program is on hold for the time being also, she said, due to the pandemic.
In an effort to provide a healthy environment, Gibson said, teachers will be wearing masks, will have uniforms and will wear aprons to protect their clothes. The suites allow students to be isolated and use just their area safely if needed. Disinfecting and sanitizing solutions will be used, and hand sanitizer is available in all classrooms.
The school also has a fresh air filter system, which was installed before the coronavirus pandemic became a concern, to mitigate viruses and allergies.
Students will bring their lunches, and staff members will set the food out for the students at the cafeteria tables. The students will wash their hands and sit down to eat, one classroom suite at a time, and then the space will be cleaned and set up for the next suite.
“We’re just trying to do everything that we can to be as clean as we can be, and not just because of COVID, because that’s what you need to do for the kids,” she said.
The preschool, which has a rate of $775 per month, is expected to open Aug. 3 and is open to the public. To enroll or set up a tour, go to tamuclc.com/registration or call 979-485-1308. For more information, go to tamuclc.com.
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