Westchester offers plenty of choices for early childhood and afterschool programs for working parents, but there’s a new option locally that parents of young children might find appealing.
Lightbridge Academy, which was established more than 20 years ago in New Jersey and has expanded to locations throughout the Northeast, opened its first location in Westchester on Oct. 5 in Elmsford’s new mixed-used building The Elm at 35 Valley Ave., off of Exit 21 on the Saw Mill Parkway.
Director Maureen Gioio, who has 36 years of early childhood care experience, said Lightbridge Academy is more than just daycare, serving as an early childhood education center that is not only convenient for parents but recognizes that each child learns differently.
“What they do is they have taken the really great parts of all the early childhood programs and developed their own curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for each age group,” said Gioio. “They also teach to the whole child. So every child learns differently.”
The Elmsford location, which has about 10,000 square feet with 11 classrooms, a large multipurpose room and two outdoor play areas, is owned by Ramkumar Jagadeesan and Joanne McKay, a couple who sent their three children, now between the ages four and eight, to Lightbridge. Gioio said they had such a great experience with their own kids that they wanted to bring the program to Westchester.
“They see a need for quality childcare so this is why they decided to come in,” Gioio said. “They had such a great experience and they wanted to share it with Westchester families.”
Lightbridge Academy takes children from six weeks old through the preschool ages for half- and full-day programs from two to five days a week. Gioio said drop-in service is also offered in the event parents need an option to watch their children on short notice; however, she recommends that families provide staff at least 24 hours’ notice so Lightbridge has appropriate staffing levels on hand.
As of mid-November, there were seven full-time teachers and assistants that oversee a little more than 20 children enrolled in its early childhood programs. Gioio said additional children are ready to come on board after the holidays and next spring, as parents prefer to take a wait-and-see approach regarding COVID-19.
Afterschool programs are available for school-age children up to 12 years old.
The Lightbridge program is based on helping each child reach its different development appropriate milestones, she said.
“We also believe in play, she said. “I say it’s the child’s work.”
The teachers encourage problem-solving with other children, a critically important skill to learn from a young age, Gioio said. Lightbridge also provides sign language instruction to every child along with Spanish. The curriculum is often influenced by an appropriate theme of the week or month, she said.
It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Gioio said that the center has attracted families from the Bronx and southern Westchester as well as northern Westchester and as far away as Brewster who work in the White Plains area and central Westchester.
There is also a contingent of parents who are working from home who need to concentrate without interruption and want their children to have healthy interaction with their peers.
“Especially a child that’s beginning to walk or a toddler that needs one-on-one attention because toddlers are just beginning to explore, they’re climbing, they’re jumping, so a lot of the parents are working from home but they need to get work done, and they want their children to have social interaction and not just see mom and dad,” Gioio said.
Like all schools Lightbridge Academy is focused on secure facilities and providing health safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a double set of doors with a face scanner to keep track of all visitors.
All staff and children who are old enough wear masks. There is emphasis on frequent handwashing and the center regularly sanitizes surfaces throughout the day. Lightbridge also is employing a professional cleaning service that comes in every evening, Gioio said.
The school is also refraining from mixing classes and teachers and it is capping its capacity until the end of the pandemic at 122 children.
Gioio said that Lightbridge Academy is a facility that she would have sent her own children to.
“I have a daughter that went through childcare. I’m a grandmother of three. I would only work in an environment that I would want my grandchildren in,” she said.
For more information about Lightbridge Academy’s programs, call 914-347-1500 or visit www.LightbridgeAcademy.com.