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Rotary Happenings: Children Education Center provides a safe, fun and stimulating place for learning

By Staff | Dec 24, 2014

Well, last Friday’s morning breakfast meeting was off to a rough start; the problem was our breakfast wasn’t ready.

It wasn’t really anyone’s fault, it just happened that the person with the key to the Dunes came down ill and the staff had to wait for someone else to come open the door.

This could have been a disaster for those that need a strong cup of coffee to even keep their eyes open during our meetings but everyone took it in stride and actually we started our business portion of the meeting first and when breakfast was ready Rotarians seemed to enjoy their breakfast even more, especially the special pancakes made to makeup for the delay.

With all our committee reports out of the way, thank you shout-outs to are tireless group of Rotarians that filled and placed 1,600 luminaries out for both Sanibel and Captiva Luminary nights and happy and satisfied with our great breakfast: it was time for our speaker for the morning, Children’s Education Center of the Island Director, Cindy DeCosta.

Although Cindy has been on staff at the Children Education Center of the Island for a number of years, she just recently became Director of CECI five months ago.

The Center was founded and designed as a parent co-op educational center in 1974 by three moms who saw the growing need for group social activities and a kindergarten readiness program for children ages three and four on the Island.

In 1974 (forty years this year) Francis Bailey allowed the co-op the use of the old Bailey’s General Store on Bailey Road for $1 a year to serve as the Center’s home.

In 1980, the school moved to Casa Ybel Road when the Sanibel Lions Club and the Bailey family donated five acres of land and Casa Ybel Resort donated two guest cottages joined to create the main building. In 1993 Islanders, Larry and Kathie Thompson donated an island home to CECI and in 1997 was rehabilitated and houses the Pre-K class at the center.

CECI is a parent co-op learning institution, governed by a Board of Directors and where parents are required to give at least 20 hours of volunteer service to the school each year.Scholarship recipient’s parents are required to give 40 hours of volunteer service.

From its humble beginning forty years ago, the Children Education Center has always kept to the original concept of providing a safe, fun, and stimulating place for learning during the developing years for children 2 to 5 years (two year olds were added in 1992) from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. school days with extended/wrap-around care available on these days.

The school also provides a state licensed and funded P-K program. Special school-break camps are also held at the Center and have been designed for young children providing enrichment activities.

Although the school does receive funding for the state mandated Pre-K program and tuition at the school is charged along with volunteer hours required, financial support from other activities are needed to actually maintain the quality of programming, employee qualified and loving educators, and maintain the buildings and grounds of the Center- including: The Annual Beach Ball, Children’s Spring Festival, and Art Work Sales.

Fundraising events, grants, and donations help with the expenses at the school, provide scholarship monies for currently 20-percent of the children at the school.

Currently is seeking funding to put in place a Lightning Detection System at the school. This system will provide a warning system of possible dangerous storm activity in the area and help keep children out of harm’s way during strong storm activity.

The cost of this system is $11,000 and Rotary is now considering a donation to the funding of this system. If anyone would like to join Rotary in this endeavor, please contact, Bill Rahe at wrahe@earthlink.net.

Cindy had a great deal more to say including, some remarks about the state mandated Pre-K testing, and how young minds learn and absorb during educationally designed play experiences.

Unfortunately I can’t explain all of this in my column but if your child is between 1 and 5 years old, checkout the Children’s Education Center of the Island, Sanibel. You will be duly impressed.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Clubs meets Friday mornings for breakfast and meeting at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guests are always welcome.