Kristin Milewski talks to COA employee Crystal Eickhoff while holding her 10-month-old daughter Mason. Photo by Sue Ann Rybak (See more photos below)

by Sue Ann Rybak

The new Children of America Educational Childcare & Academy held a grand opening event on June 16 at the site of the former Border’s Bookstore, 8701 Germantown Ave. The 16,089-square-foot educational facility contains 14 classrooms, 1,955 square feet of indoor playground, several large playing areas and 14 parking spaces.

Company representatives touted the facility’s state-of-the-art security systems and an Internet access program, AlwaysCloseBy.com, which allows parents to check-in on their children throughout the day via streaming video of the classrooms and play areas.

Thad Pryor, Children of America (COA) president and CEO said he was excited to be opening the company’s “flagship” school in Chestnut Hill that will serve children from 6 weeks old to fifth grade.

“This will be the first time in the history of Children of America that we will open our first charter school,” saidPryor,a former world champion kick boxer. “Very few childcare centers have the ability to become an actual educator. Our first year, we will start off as an educational childcare provider. If we have enough participation this year, we will have a first-grade class in the fall. It will be based on demand, but I envision us having our first first-grade class next year.”

Pryor said he is passionate about helping children reach their full potential. As a child, he struggled with the challenges of being dyslexic.

“I am dedicated to not letting any child ever be left behind because I was that child-who was left behind,” Pryor said.

Pryor added that being a world champion kick-boxer had its rewards. Now, he said, his “special reward is helping children discover their talents and find their purpose in the world.”

Pryor’s personal mantra and motto of COA is “Think. Be. Do.”

Kylee Kline, curriculum developer specialist for COA and a former public school teacher, elaborated on the philosophy of COA.

“Our philosophy is children can do and be anything,” Kline said.

A key component to COA’s curriculum is their Mind and Body Matters program, which is based on three specific plans: the Just Read Program, “An Apple a Day” Nutrition Program and the Presidential Fitness Campaign.

Kline said the Just Read program is “designed to create more interaction between parents and their children.”

“Our books [in the interactive series] are actually written by our students and illustrated by our students,” Kline said.

He added that it helps kids connect with the story.

Parents can download the book to their Smartphone, iPhone or Kindle. Kline said the idea is to help busy parents be as “actively involved with their kids as possible.”

COA’s “An Apple A Day” nutrition program was developed by renowned registered dietician Jamie Windrow. Parents can log on to Windrow’s blog to ask questions, download wholesome recipes and get tips for healthier living.

“The idea is that while we’re feeding their minds in the classrooms, we’re also feeding their bodies,” Kline said.

COA’s Presidential Fitness Campaign reinforces the idea of physical fitness as an important component of a happy healthy life.

“Every day, children participate in specific curriculum-driven physical fitness activities,” she said.

Kline addressed the issue of parking and traffic congestion, a major concern of many Chestnut Hill residents.

“Most of our schools only have five or six dedicated spots to pick up and drop off – we have 14 spots,” Kline said. Our staff is in the process of getting monthly passes to park in the nearby lot.”

She added that many COA clients are from the local area.

“I think overall you’re not going to see this crazy impact that a lot of people were anticipating,” Kline said. “A lot of moms were asking about stroller parking because they just wanted to walk, so we provided a whole area which we have never done at any of our other schools just to accommodate 50 strollers. We are trying to listen to the needs of clients and be as creative as possible.”

Kline said the center “is going to provide a great service for the community.”

“While I know some people were looking for it to be another retail space, we are not going to take away from local businesses by being a competitor,” Kline said. “I think, if anything, it’s going to be a benefit because we’re not trying to sell something that’s already being sold on the Avenue.”

As for an increase in traffic congestion, Kline said that “while traffic patterns are important for the local community – for us its safety.”

She added that COA is looking into the possibility of making a right-hand-turn only exit from the parking lot.

Kline said the company is looking forward to forming partnerships with local businesses in the area.

“We do plan on participating in Third Thursday events in Chestnut Hill,” Kline said.

She said COA would like to partner with local restaurants in the area to create a parent date night, an event it hosts at several of its other facilities.

“If anything, I think we’re going to be great neighbors,” Kline said.