At EvCC’s Early Learning Center, it’s no ‘day care’

EVERETT — Holly McFaul grew up in Detroit. She was a first-generation college student who now has two master’s degrees. She cares deeply about education. Her focus is on the youngest of all students.

McFaul, 44, is the new director of Everett Community College’s Early Learning Center, which provides care and education to children ages 1 to 5.

She bristles at the term “day care.”

“I do not care for days. I educate young children,” McFaul said. “Day care indicates all we’re doing is wiping bottoms and wiping noses. This is my calling. All children deserve high-quality education.”

That thinking is in line with Washington’s emphasis on early childhood education. The state Department of Early Learning has teamed up with the University of Washington and Child Care Aware Washington to offer a quality rating and improvement system for early childhood care and education. The voluntary system is called Early Achievers. The EvCC Early Learning Center is a participant.

On Saturday, the Early Learning Center will host an open house, 10 a.m. to noon, to give families the opportunity to tour classrooms and ask questions. The center, which gives priority to EvCC students, is enrolling now for 2014-15 and may have slots available.

Starting June 30, hours will be expanded to 7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Families may enroll for an academic quarter, the full academic year or for full-time, full-year care. For qualifying families, the center offers free preschool through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.

Rates are available on the center’s website, www.everettcc.edu/elc.

Quality early-childhood programs are expensive. “It can be more than a mortgage,” McFaul said. Full-time toddler care at the Early Learning Center is $880 per month for students and $1,200 per month for other parents. Fees are lower for preschoolers.

According to a recent report from the nonprofit Child Care Aware America, a nonprofit resource for parents, child care costs in 31 states are greater than public college tuition and fees.

Friday was Provider Appreciation Day, sponsored by Child Care Aware America and intended to recognize child care providers and educators of young children.

McFaul, who started at the center in December, showed off six classrooms Friday. Licensed for more than 100 children, the center offers what she called “child-initiated” learning.

“Children should be active participants,” she said. “If children are interested in dinosaurs, I go get a paleontologist.”

Staff there must have an associate’s degree in early childhood development or early childhood education, which exceeds state requirements.

Decorated in the calming hues of nature, the classrooms are named for trees — Dogwood, Sweet Gum and Pine. The center’s chef, Gay North, cooks meals from scratch. “We have a very global population, and our menus reflect that,” McFaul said.

Different age groups have separate outdoor play spaces. Art rooms are bathed in natural light.

“It’s an inspiring place to be a child,” said McFaul, adding that parents are encouraged to be there and to help.

“Our core belief is that family is the first teacher,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Open house

The Everett Community College Early Learning Center, which serves children ages 1 to 5, will host an open house 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The center is expanding hours starting June 30, offering care 7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. For qualifying families, free preschool through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program is available.

More information: www.everettcc.edu/students/elc

Tip on choosing high-quality early care: http://childcareaware.org/parents-and-guardians/child-care-101/5-steps-to-choosing-care

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