For additional information, you can read our previous posts on this topic here and here.
Question – Is there going to be a preschool at Luther Memorial Church (LMC)?
Answer – The answer is “Undecided”. A team has been working to discern if a faith-based preschool can become part of the LMC mission. The team believes having a preschool at LMC would be a natural extension of our mission to the congregation and to our surrounding community. However, the team is critically examining if a preschool is a worthwhile use of our congregational resources of space and money.
Question – If a team is acting doesn’t that mean a decision has already been made?
Answer – No. The team is assessing the costs and resources that would be needed to offer a preschool program resident at LMC. If the team can put together a workable model, it will then be presented to the Church Council for review. If it meets the Council’s approval, the model would then be presented to the congregation for its ultimate approval.
Question – What expertise does LMC have to develop a preschool as part of our programs?
Answer – The team is discussing with Pilgrim Lutheran (Pilgrim) about forming a partnership to open a new preschool location in our community. In its simplest form, Pilgrim would provide its administrative experience including staffing while LMC would provide the location. LMC avoids the risks and pitfalls of starting up such a school by partnering with Pilgrim. The discussions include how to allocate operating costs, capital costs and financial risks in establishing a preschool. The target date for our model is Fall 2016.
Question – Can you share any details of what the preschool may be like?
Answer – Certainly. The model the team is working on looks like this – the Beginners Room would be the classroom site. Enrollment would be no more than 20 students with a teacher and an aide. The projected enrollment is determined by our available space and minimum staffing requirements. Full or half-day slots would be available for students. Activities now scheduled in the Beginners Room would be moved to the Nursery space or elsewhere in the building.
Question – What structural changes would need to be made to our building?
Answer – Many of the contemplated uprades to modernize our current office configuration and capabilities would dovetail with the potential needs of a preschool. Other minor rennovations to the Beginners Room would be part of any other proposed building plans. So far, the one stand-alone structural addition is the need for an outdoor play area. The team is assessing both the physical possibility and capital costs of putting a playground on the roof of the boiler room. The potential costs for this and any other changes are major considerations in determining if any preschool model is right for LMC.
Question – What operating costs would be required for a preschool? Who will pay them?
Answer – The team has identified several costs that would be part of a preschool model. First, the salaries of the teacher and the aide are the obvious expenses. There would also be additional custodial expenses. The Pilgrim model relies on tuition to cover salaries, educatonal, and custodial expenses. The Pilgrim model also assumes the host provides the physical plant and pays any increased utility expenses. Allocation of other costs, insurance for example, are a significant part of our negotiations with Pilgrim. The assumption of potential economic risks associated with enrollment and tuition collected is another negotiating point.
Question – Would LMC need to be licensed to operate a preschool? Other City regulations?
Answer – LMC can either apply for a state license or seek an exemption to operate a preschool. We would strive to meet the Illinois DCFS standards because they are meaningful benchmarks for our preparedness to operate a preschool. The team has reviewed the DCFS licensing requirements and believes a license could be readily obtained. We already meet nearly all of the Illinois standards affecting square footage and other physical parameters.
We also have to meet City fire and building codes. We have confirmed with the City and our alderman that a preschool is compatible with our current zoning. We requested informal inspections by the City departments to determine our current compliance with their standards and what changes, if any, would be needed. Those inspections were completed last week and we are just beginning to evaluate their suggestions.
Question – What is the timeline for a decision?
Answer – If the preschool is to open in a partnership with Pilgrim Lutheran for Fall of 2016, the congregation would have to vote in a special meeting during the early fall 2015. The team continues to assess our physical plant and the monetary costs; evaluate the potential partnership arrangement with Pilgrim Lutheran; and discern the place, if any, of a preschool as part of Luther Memorial’s mission. The team will share its work with the Council and congregation if a successful model can be fashioned.
This post was guest written by Preschool Team member Jerry Giese. The Council thanks Jerry for all of his hard work and dedication as we work to determine feasibility and next steps on this project. His experience and attention to detail have been vital throughout the process.