At the new Saints and Squires Daycare at the St. Joseph campus of Mishawaka Catholic School children do play together sweetly as a joy-filled hum fills the space. A collaborative effort of Marian High School, Mishawaka, and Mishawaka Catholic School, the new day care is an employee benefit for teachers and staff with little ones from infant through 3-1/2 years old.
Pastors Father Chris Lapp, St. Joseph Parish, and Father Jacob Meyer, St. Monica Parish, along with principals Mark Kirzeder of Marian and Karen Salvador of Mishawaka Catholic, partnered and developed an idea begun by Marian assistant principal Anne Ullrich. Currently on maternity leave, Ullrich was the inspiration for a Catholic day care that would allow teachers to keep their jobs and be assured their children are well cared for at a cost-effective location that’s conveniently located, Kirzeder explained.
“As a school community, offering a low-cost day care is one way we can support our teachers, who give so much to their schools. Additionally, this is a way that we hope to attract and retain quality teachers who have a desire to continue their vocation as a teacher, but often times cannot financially afford to once they begin to have a family of their own. I also hope that offering benefits like this will help to offset a lower salary that teachers earn in comparison to their colleagues who work in the public school system.” Kirzeder shared.
The initiative is creative and pro-life, supporting families during the exhausting early years of raising children. The name comes from the mascots of both schools, the saints of Mishawaka Catholic and the knights of Marian. (A squire is an aspiring knight.) The little ones are saints in the making — the goal of all baptized — as well as future schoolchildren of the two campuses.
Laura Zartman, director, explains that what sets the program apart is “our ability to offer the personal attention that they need.” Day care professionals, working side-by-side with retired grandmothers, offer care from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The daily routine consists of breakfast, circle time, crafts, sensory time, lunch, naps, outside play and walks. Parents and teachers are welcome to stop in anytime, which, for a nursing mother, is life-changing.
The current clientele at Saints and Squires ranges in age from 4 months to 3-1/2 years old. Parents provide the food and blankets the little ones need daily, and the children receive individual attention — from baby snuggles and bottle feeding to singalongs — as well as developmentally appropriate play. The children, who one day might be future classmates, are taught to care for each other and play well in a Catholic, learning community. Each child’s daily schedule, including eating and naps, are recorded and communicated.
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