Judi Whilden, owner and director of Sunrise Kids LLC Preschool & Child Care, stands in front of her school on the corner of Seventh and School streets. The program recently received three out of four stars from the Qualistar Early Learning Rating System.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Judi Whilden, owner and director of Sunrise Kids LLC Preschool & Child Care, stands in front of her school on the corner of Seventh and School streets. The program recently received three out of four stars from the Qualistar Early Learning Rating System.

Sunrise Kids awarded three-star rating from non-profit group

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Sunrise Kids LLC Preschool & Child Care in Craig has received its second three-star rating from Qualistar Early Learning Rating System, a non-profit organization that evaluates the quality of early childhood programs in Colorado.

Judi Whilden, who started Sunrise Kids 16 years ago, said she is proud of the score, which she believes is indicative of quality and consistency.

The score is based on five quality components.

Whilden said Sunrise Kids narrowly missed on achieving one more star.

“We missed four stars by three points,” said Whilden, owner and director of the school.

Sunrise Kids received 10 out of 10 on two of the five quality component categories: family partnership and adult-to-child ratio.

Family partnership grades the methods schools use to develop relationships to families, the opportunity for family involvement, and the ability to be a resource for families.

Whilden said she hosts monthly meetings for parents, home visits, parent/teacher conferences, and welcomes parents to visit or stay with their child at preschool.

“Parental involvement is a vital component to quality care,” she said. “The best time to do that is preschool.”

The adult-to-child ratio grades the ability of a program to follow standards for the ratio of staff members to children. For every eight children, Sunrise Kids provides one teacher, Whilden said.

Sunrise Kids lost points in the training and education and learning environment areas.

Training and education grades the work experience and formal education of the teachers, while learning environment considers the program’s learning activities, physical environment and health and safety.

“Some things they want us to change are not possible,” said Whilden. “If we have the money, we want to use it on the kids first.”

Sunrise Kids still has 40 spots available for school starting in August, but applications are accepted any time during the school year.

Applicants have three options for enrollment: tuition preschool, free preschool for children who qualify for the Colorado Preschool Program, and free preschool for families that qualify for the Head Start program.

The Colorado Preschool Program is a state program that gives at-risk children a chance to receive a scholarship at a school of their choice. The Head Start program is federally funded and income-based.

Sunrise Kids also offers half-day programs — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — as well as full-day childcare for parents who work.

Preschool, which occurs either in the morning or afternoon, costs $16 per day. Childcare, which last all day, costs $32 per day.

The morning preschool session starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 11:15 a.m. The afternoon preschool session starts at 12:15 p.m. and lasts until 3:15 p.m.

Afternoon classes have one English-speaking teacher and one Spanish-speaking teacher, who collaborate to assist children in maintaining their home culture while learning a new language.

Whilden attributes the success of Sunrise Kids to what she considers a dedicated staff.

Two years ago, Sunrise Kids was awarded its first three-star rating, and Whilden hopes to continually build off the success.

“It’s considered an accomplishment to be Qualistar-rated,” Whilden said. “I plan to keep doing it.”

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