Oakdale is getting another new child care center.
Little Minds Learning Center will be opening in Oakdale next to the Novation Credit Union this spring. The center received city approval in November.
Little Minds Learning Center currently has locations in Hudson, River Falls and Onalaska. This will be their first center in Minnesota.
Oakdale Patch caught up with Megan Gaulke, a spokeswoman of Little Minds Learning Center.
Oakdale Patch: Tell me about your learning center.
Gaulke: We are more curriculum and learning based. Obviously they are children and they need to play and we involve that in their entire day. From the time they are infants we are getting them ready for when they are ready to go to school. We want to give them all the necessary tools they will need when they go to school so they are completely prepared.
We also want to give them extra things that a lot of other places tend to charge more for that are options for kids to take classes at an extra cost. We actually contract teachers to come out for yoga, Spanish and sign language so that kids in the three oldest classrooms (of seven classrooms total). Three classrooms on a weekly basis have a yoga, Spanish and sign language teacher do about a half hour class. It’s not any extra cost to the parents. Some parents cant’ afford to do those extra things, but we never want kids to feel excluded so we do it.
All those things we incorporate in our younger classes too, but it’s the teachers who are in there on a daily basis that incorporate that in their curriculum. Even infants do baby yoga and we send home the poses with the kids.
Patch: What made you want to open your learning center in Oakdale?
Gaulke: Todd and Stacy had friends who were interested in helping to put one in Minnesota, so we did quite a few market studies in that area and the surrounding areas to see where we could best fit. So we were looking for place that would have the need of children. We wanted to come into a place that needed more room for child care and we also wanted to go to a place that would appreciate the education aspect of what we can give to children.
We started out saying we wanted to go into the Woodbury or Oakdale area, but we weren’t really sure yet on the exact plot of land we were going to use. As we looked around and saw that spot and thought it would be a great place, and it is. It’s right next to Woodbury, right next to Lake Elmo and right by a huge interchange where people get on to get to work.
Patch: Can you tell me some of the history of Little Minds?
Gaulke: Our Hudson center was our first center, Todd and Stacy are actually from Hudson. They had moved from Eau Clare and came to Hudson were looking for care for their kids, but they really couldn’t find in their minds what they were looking for.
Stacy has a lot of background with early childhood and Todd has a business background with consulting so they just decided to do it. They opened the Hudson center in September of 2008. Hudson has been around for almost four and a half years and we are a full center with more than 100 people on our waiting list.
Our River Falls center opened in August of 2011 and we are well on our way to being full there also. And our center in Onalaska was in December 2011.
Patch: What is something unique about your center?
Gaulke: One great thing we have are web cameras in our classrooms. They are password protective on our website.
Patch: Is that common or pretty rare?
Gaulke: I know in Wisconsin at least it’s pretty rare. I think some places see it as an invasion of privacy on kids and teachers, but for us we only allow the parents to see their child’s classroom. They can’t look at all the other classrooms in the center and they get 10 minutes of every hour. So they are not logging on 24/7. When we hire teachers they know parents can log on and access their classrooms. I think in Minnesota there are probably some places that do have it, maybe especially more in this area. A lot of places have cameras, but parents can’t access them. I think that sets us apart a little too because we give parents that accessibility. There are parents that never check it, and that’s completely fine, but there are first-time moms who check it all the time and that’s fine.
Patch: What is your price range for your center?
Gaulke: We post our rates on our website for everyone. They can also always call in to discuss our rates with me. We do offer a full-time, five-day rate and a three- and two-day rate too.
Patch: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Gaulke: We do the High Reach curriculum, which is nationally accredited.
We make all of our food from scratch. Everything is made at the center. Our food is really good. I sometimes have to pop in to the center because I know they what they are having for lunch.
I usually like to include our mission: We provide a premier child development experience that is both educational and affordable.
Full business name: Little Minds Learning Center
Address: 470 Imperial Avenue North, Oakdale
Owners: Todd and Stacy Barnhardt
Number of employees: At full capacity LMLC has approximately 35 teachers, a full-time director, 14 full-time teachers and food and nutrition specialist.
Open date in Oakdale: May/June 2013
Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon-Fri; Saturdays by appointment from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Contact Person: Megan Gaulke