WESTSIDE — The Gakushu Children’s Center will soon be providing much-needed infant and toddler childcare and preschool services to local families on the Westside. Takashi and Eileen Yamata moved from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i after deciding raising children in a slower-paced, friendly atmosphere was extremely important to them. “As a parent,” explained Eileen Yamata, “it’s very difficult to shuttle your children to two or three different childcare facilities or baby-sitters before work. We began to notice there was a real lack of comprehensive infant childcare here on Kaua‘i. We hope to fill that need.”
The Yamata’s, originally from Japan, both have professional experience in childcare, with Takashi certified as a pre-school director and Eileen, already a certified infant child-care giver, will receive her preschool teacher certification from KCC in the next semester.
The Gakushu Children’s Center will soon receive a state license through the Department of Human Services. “We also wanted to offer breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack so that parents would be less burdened. We have already gotten our kitchen inspected by the Department of Health and we will be following the USDA’s guidelines for healthy and balanced meals,” Yamata said.
Gakushu means “learning” in Japanese and Yamata hopes to create an imaginative and hands-on learning environment. “We won’t have battery-operated toys. We want to encourage play, pretend and physical activity,” she said.
Although the center’s facility is being leased from Waimea Baptist Church, there is “no religious affiliation. We welcome everyone and offer secular childcare,” Yamata said.
One of the most important differences Yamata sees in her school is allowing for the wide-range of ages (6 months to preschoolers) that enable siblings to be together during the day. “This is something much more common in Japan, and we feel it helps both parents’ schedules and children’s development and transition to daycare,” Yamata said. “It’s much easier if your older sibling is already at the school.”
Currently the center is searching for two additional staff members. While Eileen Yamata’s mother, Noriko Tojo, a qualified infant care giver and educator will work as a consultant to the school, the Yamata’s are looking to staff two full-time preschool teachers, or retired teachers interested in running the administrative aspect of the school and/or working hands-on with the children. “As soon as we find our staff, we are ready to open,” Yamata said. “We are very willing to work in conjunction with parents and develop our center to address the direct needs of the community. We don’t want anyone turned away because they think we can’t offer what they need.”