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Berenschot ready to meet area need for preschool

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An area day care provider's about to become a preschool operator from her Ellsworth home.

Justa Berenschot, who's cared for children from infants to age three for the past three-and-a-half years, is preparing to open Little Wonders Preschool there this fall. She'll offer such features as story time, creative art, free play and snack time.

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"I've been getting burned out on these 12-hour days," Berenschot said Thursday of her day care enterprise.

A local resident since she was three-years-old herself, she'd thought about starting a preschool for around a year. However, she believed she'd have to have a four-year degree and that caused her to hesitate until she got some hometown advice. Carolyn Manfred, a longtime day care operator in Ellsworth, not only shared expertise with her but directed her to a state official for more information.

"He told me I don't need a degree, I just have to get licensed," Berenschot said.

She's been occupied with the licensing process since last fall, she said. She's dealt with a company the state hires to help prepare prospective preschool operators for a state visit. Within the last month, the company's initial visit occurred.

"She went through the house with a 13-page checklist," the license hopeful said of her visitor. Issues ranged from safety regulations to paperwork including records on parents and their kids.

Berenschot said she did well overall, yet there's still a few items on the list left to satisfy. Total compliance is necessary before the state comes.

Meantime, she's taking the required 40 hours of schooling toward three credits in early childhood education, she said. She's presently waiting for her mid-term exam through a correspondence course originating in Rice Lake.

Licensing allows a preschool to serve up to eight children at a time, including the owner's own, she said. In her case, it will mean five outside children. She plans to have five in a class for four different daytime sessions (mornings and afternoons) on two days per week, Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each session will last two-and-a-half hours.

"I already have 10 signed up," she said, noting several were referred to her by Karen Thoen, who's had an area preschool but recently decided to discontinue it.

Berenschot said she'll charge monthly fees and accept three-to-five-year-olds. She'll follow the Ellsworth School District's schedule, closing on the same days those schools are closed, including bad weather days.

At the state official's suggestion, she searched the internet web to find a curriculum, she said. She chose "Mother Goose Time," which is very structured. In fact, she'll depart from its step-by-step nature somewhat.

The 1995 Ellsworth High School graduate was enthusiastic about art, especially drawing and painting, while in school as well as music, participating in band and choir. She said she attended Dakota County (Minn.) Technical College for a year to study graphic design, then worked at Norwood Promotional Products in Red Wing for three years, helping set up print and type advertising to be printed on promotional items.

"I decided to stay home when I had the twins," she said of Mitchel and Brianna, age three. She and husband Howie, employed by Freier's Electric and Heating in Ellsworth, also have a son, Bryce, seven, and expect another child this August.

The daughter of Perry and Sally Clark of Ellsworth met her spouse, a Turtle Lake native, through a friend, she said. Four-to-five years ago, they moved into their present house, just north of the village, which was previously home to her father's parents. Recently, they added an addition, have fenced in the yard and made other improvements.

In their spare time, they support son Bryce's sports pursuits, such as summer baseball, she said. Her mate likes to work on monster trucks when he can.

For more information about Little Wonders Preschool, phone 273-6143.

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