Michaela Andrade rushes to hug her former teacher, Maya Garcia, during an open house for students at the new Lake Stevens Early Learning Center on Friday in Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Michaela Andrade rushes to hug her former teacher, Maya Garcia, during an open house for students at the new Lake Stevens Early Learning Center on Friday in Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Preschoolers and parents get a sneak peek at a new space

Lake Stevens opens a dedicated early learning center, funded by a voter-approved bond. (Video)

LAKE STEVENS — The kids charged through a child-sized front door, built about half the height of the adult door next to it.

Later, though, some hesitated in the doorways of their classrooms, uncertain about this new environment.

Lake Stevens preschool teachers welcomed families to the new early learning center off Lake Drive during an open house the day before Winter Break. It was a chance for the 3- and 4-year-old students to get comfortable in the space while their parents got a peek at where their children will be learning as of Jan. 8.

After teacher Trisha Romanus convinced 3-year-old Benjamin Grund to cross the threshold into class, the boy began to grin. He jumped up and down, turning in circles to take in the classroom, and hamming it up for his mom, Lisa Grund. She laughed at his antics and snapped photos on her cellphone.

“I just ride the bus to come to a new school,” Benjamin said. “I like they have all the things I want.”

He’s a fan of the cars and trains, and the play kitchen. He’s confident in his abilities as a chef.

Romanus lifted Benjamin up near the windows and showed him where construction crews were busy with heavy equipment next door at Stevens Creek Elementary. The elementary is set to open in the fall.

The two schools were paid for as part of a $116 million bond passed by voters in 2016.

The new preschool building houses two programs: the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and classes for children who are developmentally delayed. There are about 250 students total and seven teachers, most of whom teach a morning and afternoon session each day.

It’s not the norm for a district to have a dedicated pre-K building, district spokeswoman Jayme Taylor said. Usually, early learning programs share space in another school. In Lake Stevens, the classes were previously in the former alternative high school near Hillcrest Elementary. It wasn’t built for young children.

The new school has a spacious community room, indoor and outdoor play areas connected by a garage-style door, and child-sized restrooms attached to classrooms.

Lorena Ahola has been teaching in Lake Stevens for 13 years. She works with about 30 kids in two ECEAP sessions. She waited eagerly in her classroom for families to arrive during the open house. There were costumes hung up for dress-up, a miniature kitchen with fake food, and centers for art, writing and math.

“The fact that everything is child-sized for these beautiful little people is just so exciting,” Ahola said. “We survived in our old space, and now we’re just going to thrive.”

Building leader Matt Wyant said the school finally matches the quality programs inside.

Wyant welcomed back-to-back busloads of families. Parents followed their 3- and 4-year-olds off the buses, some bringing strollers or carriers with younger siblings.

Families started their tours in the office and then the meeting room. Ashley Vasquez’s 4-year-old daughter, Madelyn, hurried into the meeting area. She pointed and threw her arms in the air in excitement. The family was impressed by the space and decor, with big, bright windows and art on nearly every wall.

“It’s really nice,” Ashley Vasquez said. “It’s pretty, and more space was definitely needed.”

Dad David Vasquez said he hopes the new building helps Madelyn and her friend feel excited to come to school.

There’s enough room on the same campus to build a new middle school someday, too, though that won’t be for at least another decade, Taylor said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Patrick Kunz speaks during his sentencing on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett gymnastics coach who spied on students sentenced to 6 months

Patrick Kunz, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of voyuerism and possession of child pornography last month.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Everett transgender mechanic alleges Boeing treated her ‘like a zoo animal’

For years, Boeing allowed toxicity “to fester and grow” at its Everett factory, according to Rachel Rasmussen, an employee from 1989 to 2024.

Everett police officers survey the scene of a shooting along East Casino Road on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington’s 5th police academy could be in Snohomish County

A new academy in Northwest Washington would help clear a lengthy wait list for new police hires to get training.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.