By Sue Moore
A beautiful new facility built exclusively for child care has opened at 12786 S. Sprinkle Road in Vicksburg. It was designed and built with children ages 3 to 12 in mind by Jaime Hess and her husband Jeff, making it a learning center for children like none other in the area, said Hess.
“I just love kids,” Hess exclaimed. “This is where I’m supposed to be after 15 years of running Baby Bird Day Care in my home near Tobey Elementary School on 29th Street.” She was licensed for 12 children in the past with 1,700 square feet in her home for day care. The new facility, which opened in May, has 6,800 square feet with lots of natural light. It is licensed for 120 kids from ages 18 months up to 12 years old and open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., five days a week.
The building has a gym and cafeteria in the center with smaller rooms orbiting around the central area. Three to four-year-old kids have their own room on the south side, with four rooms on the south and north side of the gym that are like activity rooms. A large fenced-in outdoor play area is on the west side with a parking lot in front on the east side entrance area. A greeting area and offices are facing east.
“Having this building designed especially for children has always been a dream of mine,” Hess exclaimed. “I did baby sitting from 10 years of age. My parents, Doug and Karol Stewart, advised me what to do for others. I would sweep, get kids’ dinner, do the dishes, vacuum and have it all done before their parents got home in the evening.”
Now Hess is doing all of this and more on a grander scale. Parents seem to love her for it as the Learning Center has a full enrollment for the summer and is taking applications for fall and winter in the new facility. Her staff consists of Alicia Crandall for the classroom of three and four-year-olds. Crandall is a 16-year veteran of the Vicksburg school system and a close friend of Hess down through the years. Crandall is assisted by Aubrie Burns and with Melissa Kellogg with four and five-year-olds. Hollie Beeman and Jaimie Alleshouse round out the current staff. This will increase as the enrollment changes, with Hess herself planning to teach in one of the classrooms.
“I do most everything,” Hess remarked. “I wear many hats but love to be with the kids the most.” She has an early education degree with two years of applied science and a two-year associate of art degree. The Kids Court will be rated by the state’s Great Start to Quality program. Once that is approved, Hess will be able to take children in the Great Start Readiness Program, Young 5s and KC-Ready 4s program in Kalamazoo County if there are designated spots available for the south county area available.
“I’m not one to give up easily, so getting this building ready was quite a challenge. If I put my mind to it I can figure it out,” said Hess, a 1996 Vicksburg grad. “We did most of the interior work ourselves, including the painting. On the outside we applied the siding, the roofing and the landscaping.” The couple has four children who also help. They are Jonathan, 13; Nathan, 12; Brett, 11, and Baylee, 4.