Childcare in the Woodlands
Preschool and child care availability are pretty much taken for granted these days, but where did it all begin in The Woodlands? When The Woodlands first opened in the mid-1970s, they advertised all of the wonderful amenities of this new “Home Town.” One such amenity was child care. However, it quickly became apparent that no child care existed here.
Don Gebert, the first director of Interfaith of The Woodlands, was approached by several mothers about the advertised child care. A small group of mothers (about 14) started meeting with Gebert to make the child care come to fruition. There were several problems, the biggest of which was a place to hold the child care. The only real buildings were at Grogan’s Mill Center and the back side of The Woodlands Inn and Country Club, now Shell’s training center. After much back and forth with some cranky small children in attendance, the developer gave them a small spot at the wharf that had recently been vacated when the U.S. Post Office moved a few doors closer to the inn.
Gebert’s daughter, Susan Probst, who had a degree in early childhood development, moved from Pennsylvania to be the first director. There were 14 children and 4 teachers. The youngest child was 18 months. By late 1978 they had moved to a location at the old information center that had been vacated by Woodlands Realty (now Beck’s Prime Rib). It became apparent that they would outgrow this area very quickly, too. The need for a new center was imminent, so $300,000 in bonds were sold to pay for the new building on Windrush (now Interfaith Way).
That center opened in September 1979 with a new director, Mary Alice Reichelt. The age span was now 18 months to after school care up to fourth grade. There was a need for at least 300 students by December to make the bond payments. By November, 360 children were enrolled. Reichelt developed handbooks and chose the curriculum based on what was best for the development of the child. Eventually, she was able to lead the accreditation process and the school became accredited by National Association for the Education of Young Children. It is now accredited by National Early Childhood Program Accreditation.
As the center developed, it became apparent to certain state agencies that the quality of the center set a high standard for other child care facilities in Montgomery County. The focus has always been on what is best for the child to be inspired, grow and develop a love of learning. Gradually, as churches built their permanent buildings, many included plans for child care. With the growth of these non-profit centers the commercial child care centers began to develop.
In the early 1990s space was again the biggest problem. Space was located on Rushhaven and a new center was designed and built. The current location registers over 365 students per year and has a staff of more than 65 people. The current age range is 12 months to fourth grade.
Scholarships for short term with review were available from the earliest days of the center so that all children had an equal opportunity for child development.
Today parents can avail themselves of excellent quality child development and care from many different sources. In south Montgomery County the choices range from licensed day care homes to both non-profit and commercial facilities. The Woodlands has come a long way in childhood development since the early years.
By Char Schneider