When Olivia Zhou moved to Arvada in 2017, one of her first priorities was to find a preschool for her five-year-old daughter. Faced with what she described as unreasonable waitlists and outdated …
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When Olivia Zhou moved to Arvada in 2017, one of her first priorities was to find a preschool for her five-year-old daughter. Faced with what she described as unreasonable waitlists and outdated curriculum, she took matters into her own hands.
“I’ve always had a passion for children and education,” she said. “I just said, `there’s a need for preschools, so I am going to start one on my own.’”
After two years of research and preparation, Zhou opened Arvada West’s location of The Learning Experience Academy of Early Education, a franchise with 10 locations in Colorado.
Opened at 14815 W. 64th Ave. in mid-April, the year-round childcare center offers programs for children ages six weeks to six years old, from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
By adding a new childcare center to the area, Zhou hopes to address the lack of childcare availability she faced two years ago in Arvada, which continues today.
According to 2017 data from the Center for American Progress, five census districts within Arvada qualify as “childcare deserts.” The report defines these deserts as areas in which there are three or more times as many children under age five as there are available spots in childcare facilities.
“We have new neighborhoods being built with young families moving into those locations,” Zhou said, “so we’re fulfilling that need.”
She also aims to provide an option for parents seeking preschools with a 21st century curriculum.
“Childcare is evolving as technology and research are evolving,” she said. “A lot of centers are still using paper while we have age-appropriate technology.”
The academy incorporates technology in several ways, including iPads that teachers use to keep parents updated on classes and computers on which preschoolers complete the online portion of their curriculum.
“If the parents allow the screen time, which is about 15 minutes per child per day, the children can work on their computer skills at the preschool level,” she said.
Currently, 40 children are enrolled at the center, Zhou said, leaving room for about 130 additional students to enroll.
Zhou said she plans to franchise a second location within the next five years. She also has plans to give back to the community, dedicating a playground to the city and joining or starting a nonprofit.
“I’m very passionate about empowering women and children, including through our women-majority workforce,” she said. “That’s one of my biggest goals.”
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