Two years ago, Noah’s Ark Preschool at First Baptist Church in Seymour closed in order to restructure and start anew.

It was supposed to be a one-year closing, but the church was unable to find the right certified preschool teacher to lead the program.

In the fall of 2016, the church started a Parent’s Day Out childcare ministry instead, allowing parents to drop off young children occasionally or regularly once or twice a week for four hours.

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“Our desire was to bless parents,” said Montica Chambers, Noah’s Ark board member.

As a stay-at-home mom, Chambers said she knows firsthand parents just need a break.

“You need to be able to go to Starbucks by yourself and just sit there or clean your house without interruption,” she said.

Besides helping out parents, the program also provides an opportunity for young children, from walking age to 4 years old, to learn and grow academically, socially and spiritually.

Students learn about the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. They sing songs and learn the letters of the alphabet, colors, numbers, shapes and the weather. There is a routine they follow, learning how to follow instructions and share with their classmates.

They learn to play and play to learn through educational and sensory stations and small group work focusing on academic lessons, including pre-reading skills.

There are currently 13 students enrolled in Parent’s Day Out, and classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays. To keep the student-to-instructor ratio low, class sizes are limited to about 10 students.

The response from parents to the new program led the church to realize the community was in need of more early-childhood services.

This fall, First Baptist Church plans to reopen Noah’s Ark Preschool with its new teacher, Traci Peters of Seymour, at the helm.

Classes for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds will start in August. Open enrollment began Wednesday. Registration forms are available on the church’s website at fbchome.org.

A grand reopening open house will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the church for parents and children to see the classrooms and meet the teachers.

The Parent’s Day Out program will continue, too, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, giving families options for both preschool and childcare. The program also serves as a feeder program for the preschool, Chambers said.

“Our goal was to always reopen,” Chambers said of the preschool, which had operated for 25 years before temporarily closing. “We didn’t want to close it. It was just a series of events that led to that happening.”

Finding Peters was divine intervention, she said.

“God brought us Traci,” Chambers said. “We had a banner outside advertising that we were enrolling for our Parent’s Day Out program, and she was riding her bike down Community Drive and saw the banner.”

Peters called to see if the church needed any help and was soon hired to fill an open position in the Parent’s Day Out program and as the new preschool teacher.

“Traci has a great deal of experience,” Chambers said. “We are really excited for her to transition into the preschool teacher position. She’s so organized and has a vision for what she wants the classroom to look like and what she wants kids to learn. She has such a big picture for what’s going to happen.”

Before coming to Seymour three years ago, Peters worked as an administrator at St. Joseph Montessori Children’s Center in Bardstown, Kentucky. She also spent two years working with a student who has autism in the Seymour Community Schools system and at Faith Lutheran Preschool in Columbus.

“I just love this program,” she said of Parent’s Day Out. “It’s a wonderful gift to grandparents, parents, people who watch children, and they need a break. It’s just such a good program. They get an opportunity to be doing something else just for four hours, and their children are in a safe, loving environment.”

Peters said preschool is so important for children today because they are developing their character and personality from birth to age 5.

“If they feel loved, if they feel successful, if they feel good about themselves, it really gives them a great start to life,” she said.

But Indiana is far behind many other states in realizing the importance of preschool for every child, Peters added.

“We lived in New Jersey, and 25 years ago, all children went to preschool,” she said. “There was no socioeconomic reason. It was available to all families, and I certainly hope that happens here.”

Like Parent’s Day Out, the preschool will be a structured play-based learning environment.

“There is a good mixture between academics and play,” Peters said. “The teacher facilitates learning, but also, the children are learning on their own because the best way a child can learn is through their senses, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Although both programs are faith-based and are housed at First Baptist Church, they are open to any family, regardless of religious affiliation.

There are fees for children to attend. Parent’s Day Out ranges from $45 to $90 a month. There also is a drop-in fee option for those who don’t want to come regularly.

Preschool fees are set at $100 per month for 3-year-olds, who will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and $150 for 4-year-olds, who will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Students will be required to bring their lunch, and the school will provide a snack.

The preschool will not be a part of the state-funded On My Way Pre-K voucher program for low-income families, at least for the 2017-18 school year, Chambers said.

“We tried, but we weren’t going to be able to meet all of their criteria right away,” she said. “We decided that it wasn’t the right time, and we haven’t revisited the idea.”

Chambers said the programs are designed to bless parents and students.

“We want kids to walk away with increased confidence academically and to just know and experience God’s love for them,” she said.

At a glance

This fall, First Baptist Church in Seymour plans to reopen Noah’s Ark Preschool with its new teacher, Traci Peters of Seymour, at the helm.

Classes for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds will start in August.

Open enrollment began Wednesday. Registration forms are available on the church’s website at fbchome.org.

A grand reopening open house will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the church, 505 Community Drive, for parents and children to see the classrooms and meet the teachers.

The Parent’s Day Out Program will continue for the 2017-18 school year from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Although both programs are faith-based and are housed at First Baptist Church, they are open to any family, regardless of religious affiliation.

There are fees for children to attend. Parent’s Day Out ranges from $45 to $90 a month. There is also a drop-in fee option for those who don’t want to come regularly.

Preschool fees are set at $100 per month for 3-year-olds, who will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and $150 for 4-year-olds, who will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Students will be required to bring their lunch, and the school will provide a snack.

Information: 812-522-1909

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.