About Kids First! Academy
Kids First! Academy serves approximately 180 children annually through its programs, which include:
Preschool - 3 Year Old Classes and 4 Year Old Classes
Early Learning Childcare - Separate Classrooms According to Age (6 weeks-1 Yr, 1-2 Yrs, 2-3 Yrs, 3-5 Yrs)
Summer Day Camp - Activity Based Summer Program for School-Age Children 5-10 Yrs
Kids First! Academy employs approximately 24 staff members. Teacher to student classroom ratios range from 1:4 at the youngest ages to 1:12 at the preschool level. The ratio for summer camp is 1:15.
A nine member board of directors provides guidance for the center. This board is comprised of committed individuals who exhibit community leadership and collectively contribute a wide array of skills to guide the center.
2014 Board of Directors: Donna Current (President), Mary Temple, Danielle Lafollette, Darlene Seiler, Deb Dodson, Bob Richeson, Mike Wolf, and Michelle Waltz.
History of Kids First! Academy
In 2002, the Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC), a committee of Camanche Community School District administrators, educators, and parents commenced an effort to determine if and how a new preschool could be organized in Camanche. At that time, only one state-licensed center existed in the community with a limited enrollment capacity. In addition, other centers in the area were also operating at capacity with annual waiting lists. The results of the ECAC’s feasibility research showed compelling evidence that there was a strong need and desire within the community for a preschool and childcare center.
During the summer of 2004, the ECAC enlisted help from a group of community leaders committed to the mission of opening a new center. This group of volunteers formally organized into a 501(c)(3) non profit corporation, the Camanche Childhood Development Board, Inc., and quickly began putting plans together and raising funds for the development of the early childhood education center, which would have its focus on quality and innovation. Within one year, over $325,000 was raised through private, corporate, and government funding. The former Camanche Community Center was purchased, and extensive renovations were undertaken during the summer of 2005 to create the new center.
Kids First! Academy opened its doors for business in September 2005. In October, the Grand Opening of the center was held with the First Lady of Iowa, Christie Vilsack, attending as the guest speaker. In its first two months of operation, over 80 children were enrolled in the center, demonstrating its critical need in the community. In May 2006, the center honored its first graduating preschool class.
Within two years, it was evident that KFA would have to make further renovations in order to accommodate its growing enrollment and waiting lists. Fundraising efforts again took place, and 2008 became a milestone year for the center with the completion of a second-phase $257,000 renovation and transformation of the old gymnasium into modern, colorful classrooms and additional restroom facilities. Also that year, Kids First! Academy in partnership with the Camanche Community School District, was extremely proud to announce that Camanche had been chosen as a grant recipient of the Iowa Department of Education Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children. Out of 161 Iowa school districts that applied for the grant, 48 were chosen including Camanche. This state funded program provides free preschool tuition for all four year old children enrolled at KFA regardless of family income. The program was established in 2007 when Governor Culver signed House File 877 expanding the opportunity for Iowa's young children to access quality preschool environments and enter school ready to learn.
Kids First! Academy has become a wonderful example of what can happen when a community works together for the betterment of its future!