Early childhood program adapts to changes


With the demolition of the Susan Jacobs Day Care Building, the landscape at the Jewish Community Center’s Creve Coeur location has been transformed — and will continue to change.

However, the JCC’s Early Childhood Education program, which was previously housed, in part, in the Susan Jacobs Building, has been finding ways to run smoothly while it undergoes a major transformation in the interim.

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“We haven’t missed a beat,” said Jane Kadosh, director of the Early Childhood Education program.

The demolition of the Susan Jacobs Building is part of the overall plan to provide $49 million in renovation and construction of JCC facilities in Creve Coeur, Chesterfield, and at Camp Sabra. The campaign is the largest capital and endowment campaign in the JCC’s history.

The area where the Jacobs Building formerly stood will be the location of a new, state-of-the-art fitness facility facing Schuetz Road. Once renovations of the 47-year-old Wohl Building are complete, the Early Childhood Education program will be housed in the building’s lower level.

The program, which serves approximately 170 children at the Creve Coeur location (there are also another 70 children served at the JCC’s Marilyn Fox Building in Chesterfield), has had some dramatic rearrangements to accommodate the loss of an entire building.

One classroom was added to the five classrooms already located in the JCC’s Carlyn H. Wohl Building. Also, a new administrative office was created out of an unused space in the Wohl Building.

To make up for the other three classrooms, serving infants and toddlers, the JCC worked out an arrangement with the H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy to move the ECC’s infant and toddler classrooms to classrooms in the school’s lower level. The JCC renovated those rooms and built a new playground at the school.

“Epstein has been really wonderful, and very supportive. They have helped make this move go very smoothly,” Kadosh said.

Bonnie Drazen, development coordinator for Epstein said the school was happy to have the children from the JCC.

“There haven’t been any problems,” she said. “They have been great to work with, and everybody here is proud to have the J at our school.”

For parents who now have children at both the Epstein and Wohl Building locations, Kadosh said the JCC has instituted a pager system, where parents pick up their infant or toddler at Epstein, and then contact JCC staff at the Wohl Building, who will bring their older child up to meet them at their car outside the Wohl Building.

“That way, parents don’t have to get their infant or toddler all bundled up and take them out of the car and into the building to pick up another child,” Kadosh said. “We’re trying to do what we can to help make the transition easy for our parents.”

Kadosh said the demolition of the Susan Jacobs Building and the move to the Wohl Building and Epstein created its own logistical challenges.

“We had about 30 years of files to sort through and move,” Kadosh said. “We had to move our administrative office and the classrooms that were there.”

“Everything had to be moved,” she said.

Kadosh said it was bittersweet to see the building get taken down in late November.

“I originally taught here 25 years ago in the Susan Jacobs building for two years. And my oldest child worked here, so there is a lot of history,” she said.

“I think it was a bit sad for a lot of the teachers who have been here a long time. There were a lot of memories in that place,” she said.

Teachers brought their students out to see the demolition, in part to assuage some of the children’s fears.

“Some of the children were concerned that the babies were still in the building,” she said.

Teacher Meaghan Manor said that classes are running smoothly after the move. Manor, who has a daughter in an ECC classroom at Epstein, said she has been impressed with facilities at Epstein.

For the Early Childhood Education program, there will be additional changes ahead. Kadosh said the JCC is working with Epstein to potentially move all of its classrooms to the school once renovations begin on the Wohl Building.

But when the renovations are complete in 2009, she said the school will have a new facility, along with new playgrounds.

“We will have the same number of classrooms, but with a different layout,” she said. “There will be two multi-purpose rooms, one for toddler, and one for preschool age and we will have two beautiful playgrounds, one for infants and toddlers and the other for preschool-age students,” she said.