A new preschool will open at The Church in Aurora, possibly by this fall

The Church in Aurora. Paige Fisher/The Portager

The Church in Aurora hopes to open Evergreen Preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds as well as pre-kindergarten students for the upcoming school year.

The new preschool, which will be designed to provide a hands-on learning experience for children, will have a tuition payment of less than $300.

Co-founder Janelle Briggs serves as Evergreen Preschool’s director. Briggs will also teach classes along with the school’s co-creator.

“We just want to provide a safe place for kids and parents, and also a place that we can feel is the best place for kids to be and learn,” she said.

The preschool and church have been working with the city and state to zone the building for educational purposes. The Rev. Derek Hickman, senior minister of The Church in Aurora, said the church has never been zoned for preschool or education.

“We had to apply for a change in zoning status so that there could be a preschool here. We have to go through inspections from the city to make sure that everything is up to codes and standards,” he said.

As a result, the preschool might have to open a little later than expected — possibly the middle of September — because of having to wait for the city and state to make sure the area is a proper place for education.

“So there are a few hoops to jump through,” Hickman said. “The city needs certain things done to make sure that we’re up to code, and the state comes in specifically to evaluate for preschool status.”

Briggs previously worked for a nonprofit preschool and moved to Aurora six years ago. She and Ashley Leciejewski, another former preschool teacher, decided they wanted to start their own school.

“During Covid, we started creating our own curriculum and working towards something that we felt would be the closest thing to what we thought would be a good environment for children,” Briggs said.

She had heard that the community and The Church in Aurora were supportive of small businesses and wanted to reach out to the church about providing space for her preschool.

“It’s really been our home, and we really love the community. We feel it’s the same as the church, really open, willing to take in small businesses and support them,” Briggs said.

Hickman said the preschool’s values align with those of the church.

“It’s not a Christian- or faith-based preschool, but part of our church’s long-term strategic plan is to have a preschool, and this kind of landed in our lap,” Hickman said.

Both Briggs and Hickman thought it was important that the church and preschool shared the same values.

“I really have always enjoyed [the church’s] beliefs, how open they are, how friendly they are and the way that they believe that everyone has a spot there,” Briggs said. “That was really important to us.”

Classes will take place every weekday and contain 10 to 12 children per class.

“We just kind of have started this, and we plan to want it to stay small and personable because that is what we want, to be inclusive,” Briggs said.

Hickman said he believes this preschool is a need in the community, and the church exists to meet community needs.

“We’re excited to have kids and all of the joy and energy they bring in the building,” Hickman said. “I think it’ll add life and joy to the church, so I’m excited about it and most of the people I’ve talked to in the church are excited about it as well.”

Paige Fisher
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