By LESLEE BASSMAN , Four Points News
For California transplant Ketti Prout, having flexible childcare was essential in an area where she and husband Jeff Prout were without family. However, the young mother of two children was unable to find a program to meet her needs in the Four Points area so she and Jeff are creating a new environment for drop-in childcare.
Austin Kids Retreat, 6111 N. RM 620, Bldg. B, Austin, is slated to open at the end of October in a standalone structure between Southstar Bank and Dr. Beemer, adjacent to Steiner Ranch.
The daycare center, open seven days a week, will offer drop-in child care for children ages 8 weeks-12 years old as well as full-time care, Ketti said.
“We haven’t had babysitters we could rely on,” Ketti said. “So [Austin Kids Retreat] really fills the need for all of these transplant families that live in the area or people who just don’t have family that can help.”
She said the center can “fill in with babysitting needs” for local parents as it will be open until
10 p.m. weekdays and until midnight on weekend evenings. Patrons can register online to use the service and then book a reservation for a set time for childcare.
Ketti has a college degree in early childhood education and an extensive background working in the field, locally teaching at The Goddard School in Steiner and managing the Children’s Learning Adventure in the Trails at 620. Jeff has an undergraduate degree in finance and a master’s degree in entrepreneurial studies.
“[Jeff] is the business mind of this and I am the kid mind,” she said.
The couple began thinking about starting their own childcare business after relocating from “very expensive” Sonoma County to Steiner Ranch in 2014, leaving their families behind.
“When I went back to work at Goddard, it just really got my wheels turning, Ketti said. “I love teaching preschool. I love being involved in the community I live in and the education of young children. I felt like I have more to offer than just being a teacher.”
The center has an educational component, and all preschoolers dropped off in the morning on weekdays will join a preschool curriculum, whether or not the children are full-time patrons.
More than 200 children are already registered online, with the majority of those signed up as drop-in care, Ketti said.
Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. will be preschool at Austin Kids Retreat.
“If your two-year-old is here during that time, they will be doing curriculum,” Ketti said. “When they are here, they are doing activities, cooking, art projects, writing skills, the alphabet, circle time. We learn.”
With a four to one child/teacher ratio, the infant room staffing will be stronger than what the state mandates, Ketti said.
The 2,800-square-foot facility will boast an oak tree with bistro lights in the center of the main room and a food truck structure emanating out of a wall mural of a food truck.
The children will feel like they are really in a food truck park when doing art projects, participating in science activities and eating, she said.
A giant mural of Hamilton Pool and an Alamo Drafthouse-themed movie room will complete the interior.
“I’m all about feeding their imagination,” Ketti said of the children who will occupy the center. “We want all of those awesome elements of Austin. It just creates these spaces where they can use their imagination and lots of dramatic play. It gets them excited to come.”
Older children will be treated to virtual sports games including hockey, baseball and carnival games, she said. The center will also feature a virtual educational system so these children can virtually tour the Louvre or visit the pyramids in Egypt while wearing virtual reality glasses, she said.
There will be indoor basketball hoops, air hockey, Legos, board games and a 3,000-square-foot playground, Ketti said..
According to Ketti, no similar program for children exists in the area and a Lakeway drop-in childcare center closed two years ago.
She said she has “a good pulse on the people who work in the industry” and plans to pay employees “much higher than industry standards” and create bonus programs as incentives. The majority of the center’s 15 employees have already been hired, including a full-time assistant director and most of its lead teachers.
“Staffing is a challenge,” Ketti said. “We may run into the issue as we ramp up our hiring process.”