Kaleidoscope to begin expansion soon

Left: Michael Griffin Jr. Right: Keegan Disario

The mission of Kaleidoscope is to support the working families of Orcas.

And through its pre-school, child care, before and after school sessions, and early education programs, Kaleidoscope does just that.

In an effort to provide even more care for the island’s young ones and their parents, the organization is expanding its services to include infants and toddlers.

To accommodate this change, the board decided early last year to expand its facility, a project that the community has enthusiastically supported.

Orcas architects Chris and Carol Rost of Studio 29 and Teri Williams and staff of Permit Resources volunteered their time to draw up plans and help with the permitting process. The permits were submitted in mid-November and Kaleidoscope executive director Amber Paulsen hopes for approval in February.

Once the permits go through, construction will begin. The 1400 sq. ft expansion is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009.

Its new services will provide full-time (40 hours per week) child care for infants and toddlers. Kaleidoscope currently serves ages two and a half to 12 and is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. year-round. Right now there are 50 kids enrolled at the center.

“Supporting the working family has always been where we’ve come from and what we’re looking towards. Our hope is that we won’t lose the young families that we lose so often here on Orcas. Of course, we would all love to be able to stay at home with our kids, but the reality is, we need quality centers to work cooperatively with families,” said Paulsen.

“We try to create a family-like atmosphere so when kids are with us for so long during the week, it feels like home.”

“Early childhood education is the base of where these children will go in the future. It sets the foundation for future learning. At this age, children learn not from text books but through their creative experiences. And we provide that during the time they’re here. And social learning happens too. In the pre-school program we teach kids how to be a friend.”

With the extra space, Kaleidoscope will be able to offer childcare to eight infants and 14 toddlers in two classrooms.

“This will also provide more employment opportunities for adults in the community. We’ll be looking for teachers,” said Paulsen.

The expanded facility will also allow for a permanent office for the family support specialist, whose services will be open to the entire community.

Kaleidoscope’s current building was constructed in 2002 with significant financial support from the community. All labor was donated through the San Juan Builders Association and local contractors. Many of the materials were provided at cost. Paulsen hopes the community will help with the new addition as well.

Many have already offered services and funding. Among the local businesses who have pledged labor and materials are the San Juan Builders Association, Island Sheet Metal and Gutters, Terra Firma NW, Orcas Excavators, Island Hardware and Supply, Larson’s Storage, and Sea Island Sand and Gravel.

Paulsen says they still need donations to help with start-up costs like permitting.

“It was much higher than expected,” she said.

Donations can be made directly to Kaleidoscope or to the account at Island Hardware and Supply, which will go towards the purchase of materials.