Children settle in for a nap on Monday at the Child Enhancement Center, located in the elementary school wing of Cambria-Friesland Schools. The center opened on Sept. 1 and continues to grow.

Recognizing a need in the community, the Cambria-Friesland School District opened its Child Enhancement Center when the school year began. The idea took root after Timothy Raymond began working as the new district administrator.

Shortly after joining the district, he broached the idea of exploring offering an early childcare program with the CF school board. Research for the project included visiting the Oakfield School District, which offers a childcare program, sending out a survey to parents seeking input on childcare needs in the district in February and exploring options for renting space in the community, a cost analysis and rearranging classroom and other spaces in the school to make room for a program. The Cambria-Friesland School Board approved creating a childcare program in April 2015.

Cambria-Friesland school board president Rita Woelffer Burmania said with the before and after school elements, the day care meets the needs of school-age youth as well as preschool-aged children and infants.

“I am very pleased with the initiative that Mr. Raymond took after seeing the need for child care services in our area,” Woelffer Burmania said. “He sought information from a local school that created a successful daycare and brought in a qualified lead in Chelsea Stocker in order to implement the program.”

The school district hired Chelsie Stocker to run the program.

Stocker, who graduate from Cambria-Friesland High School in 2006, graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee in 2010. She had worked as an administrative assistant at a private school in Pardeeville and was approached by the Cambria-Friesland School District after pursuing the idea of offering childcare in her home to stay with her two children. She said one of her dream jobs was to one day run her own daycare, and she appreciates being giving the opportunity by her hometown school.

The school district opted to convert what was once a kindergarten classroom into a childcare center, remodeling to add a small kitchen, and put up partial walls to separate space for infants from space for toddlers.

Donations from the community helped get the center started, from toys, high chairs, books, portable cribs, playpens and more. The school district used tables and chairs it already owned, and a refrigerator from the family and consumer sciences classroom.

“There were so many donations,” Stocker said. “The best thing about living in a small town is how everyone came together.”

The Child Enhancement Center held a trial run in August, offering childcare for the children of district staff members during teacher in-services.

“It was perfect,” Stocker said.

The center officially opened on Sept. 1. Stocker said it started with 20 children, and is now up to 37, with two more enrolled to start next fall.

“I’m very impressed with how things are going and growing,” Stocker said.

Cambria-Friesland’s Child Enhancement Center offers services for children from 6 weeks old to 12 years, with before and after-school care. Stocker said the center is open from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is closed on weekend and major holidays. Stocker said that snow days that cancel school may not necessarily mean thee CEC is closed because many parents still need to go to work. The CEC employs nine, including Stocker.

“The staff has really come together,” Stocker said. “And it is truly amazing how much these kids have developed.”

She said many of the children are now recognizing colors and letters, and some are writing their names.

Stocker stressed that the CEC is not just for Cambria-Friesland School District families, but that its services are open to the public.

The center also offers opportunities for older students at the school. Members of the National Honor Society volunteer at the CEC, students enrolled in a child development class spend time there, and one student who plans to pursue a degree in education works for the after-school program.

Stocker said the director of the Jane Morgan Memorial Library visits the center every other Thursday, and the children from the CEC visit the school district library every Tuesday. The center also uses the elementary school gym and equipment, and the school playground.

“I have taken them out sledding,” Stocker said. “They had fun with that.”

She said the children also enjoy running into older siblings in the school hallways.

Stocker said it is awesome to be able to give back to the community in her role as the CEC director.

“So many people did so much for the school and for us,” Stocker said. “I’m grateful to be able to give back.”