Honey Tree expands child-care and preschool offerings
After nearly two years of work, Honey Tree Preschool has expanded to include an infant and toddler room, lessening the child-care crisis by two classrooms.
Lifelong friends Kelly Beal and Dustin Springstead purchased Honey Tree three years ago and serve as the directors, along with Helen Hebert. They started trying to expand in 2021, but the pandemic prevented them from moving forward.
“We needed a lot of checks and balances completed before we could even start the process of having the modular built,” Beal said.
The modular was finally delivered to the campus in October 2022, where it sat waiting for licensing and other necessary approvals.
“We thought we were going to have infant care in November. Our parents were so excited,” she said.
The final approvals needed went through on Dec. 31, and Honey Tree opened in the new year with a new infant room, toddler room and outdoor program called Wild Wanderers.
“We’re really excited to have infant care so that we can have families stay with us from infant care all the way to pre-K and grow with us as a family,” Beal said.
Honey Tree now has seven classrooms, thanks to the modular added to their property that houses their preschool and prekindergarten classrooms. They are now licensed for 112 kids, 40 more than their previous license.
The Wild Wanderers program is for kids ages 4 and up who want to spend time outside. Kids in this program spend 75% of their day outdoors learning about nature and their community, Beal said.
Honey Tree’s “home away from home” feel sets them apart from other preschools and care centers. In addition to bi-monthly field trips for swimming, hiking and skiing, Beal said Honey Tree offers Saturday care for a small group of families.
“We really care about our families, and we want to know about their lives and what they’re doing and how we can help their day to day go easier,” said Hebert. “What sets us apart is our commitment to our families and staff.”
Hebert has been at Honey Tree for two years. She started as a prekindergarten teacher and now serves as one of the directors.
“I’m really proud to be working for a school where as administration, we really take care of our teachers and we really try and train them to help their days go smoother,” Hebert said.
Although staffing remains a challenge for Beal and the other directors, she believes their current staff is more like a family than just a group of workers.
“We try to have that great work-life balance,” she said. “We try to make (our staff) feel that we care for them as individuals and not just as employees.”
Finding qualified staff is not easy these days, so the Honey Tree team looks for individuals who have a passion for child care and gets them into teaching classes.
“We really strive to get all of our teachers education so they can become lead teachers. As soon as they are hired, we sign them up for the Child Development Associate Certification, Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care course or early childhood education classes through the community college,” said Beal.
When it comes to how they choose their staff, Beal said, they are looking for people who show an interest in kids and are able to get on the child’s level to teach them.
“This is a career where you need to give tender, loving care to the kids,” she said.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.