South Charlotte

New school will offer child care, preschool

Parents soon will have another option in early-childhood education.

Providence Preparatory School - a new child-care center, preschool and more - is slated to launch in south Charlotte later this year.

The private, for-profit center will be on Providence Road near where it crosses Sharon Amity Road.

Providence Preparatory will offer a comprehensive array of components. The child-care center and preschool are to open in fall 2012, while a kindergarten planned for 2013.

After-school programs, but not school, for children in elementary grades also will be offered. Summer camps and extracurricular activities like dance lessons are other features.

The facility plans concierge-style amenities and services - such as arranging dry-cleaning - for parents. On-site training classrooms will meet continuing-education needs of the center's teachers, as well as other area teachers.

Dawn Peebles, 42, will lead the school as executive director, with assistance from two associate directors. Peebles, who holds a bachelor's degree in early-childhood education from Radford University, is an educational administrator, consultant and trainer. She's the mother of two girls, ages 8 and 10.

Peebles says the school will have about 224 students and a staff of about 47 including teachers and others. Weekly tuition rates vary according to the child's age, but range from $265 to $315, plus registration and annual fees.

One aspect of the facility is its outdoor areas, called "nature play gardens," with various literacy-based themes: Alice's Garden, Zen Gardens and Peter Rabbit's Gardens. Peebles says the play gardens are influenced by the Natural Learning Initiative. The Natural Learning Initiative is a program of N.C. State University's College of Design, promoting interaction with nature in children's daily experiences, according to information on the program website.

With raised fruit and vegetable gardens, flowers, bamboo forests, sand pits, water troughs and minimal play equipment, Peebles says she hopes her facility's play gardens will be "a role model for other centers."

A chef/gardener at the facility will prepare meals using organic and local ingredients. Vermicomposting (worm composting) and reducing paper consumption by using cloth napkins are other nods to the environment.

School gardens have been a rising trend in recent years. Many Charlotte schools now grow some form of vegetable and herb garden, with student participation often coinciding with the curriculum.

Peebles calls Providence Preparatory her "dream school."

Reaction from parents, she says, has been positive.

"Anything anybody asks for, we have. And anything somebody has thought of or thinks they might want, we also have," said Peebles.

Providence Preparatory is the result of a business partnership between Peebles and real estate developer Sandy Weathersbee of Urbane Properties. He serves on the board of Double Oaks Child Development Center, a nonprofit facility, where Peebles has been working as interim executive director and in a consulting role.

Peebles says Weathersbee is providing a portion of the financing for Providence Preparatory and will be one of the owners, but she'll be responsible for operations.

Weathersbee says the cost of the land and building approaches $4 million. Construction financing has been provided by Citizens South Bank, and long-term financing has been provided by Citizens South Bank and the Small Business Administration. Choate Construction is the contractor.

Tuition rates vary, with additional costs for amenities or extracurricular activities not included. Examples of enrichment programs included in tuition are etiquette instruction and language classes.