MILLBURN, NJ - Lightbridge Academy of Millburn, a child care and education center, hosted its grand opening and open house on Saturday to introduce the community to its new franchise located at 27 Bleeker Street. It was also a celebration of its two-month anniversary. A lively crowd of parents, grandparents and children joined the festivities which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Millburn Mayor Cheryl Burstein, a photo booth, a petting zoo, a bubble party with a DJ, balloon making, refreshments, a fire truck, and a tour of the center and information sessions.
Lightbridge Academy describes itself as “The Solution for Working Parents.” Established in 1997, Lightbridge Academy provides early education and childcare to children ages six weeks through kindergarten, as well as special programming for children up to 10 years old during school holidays, breaks and summer camp. It currently has centers throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. The company celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017.
The franchise owners of Lightbridge Academy of Millburn are Michael and Katerina Kearney. In addition to working in Essex County schools for over ten years, they have three children of their own. Katerina Kearney has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in early education. She has worked for 14 years in early childhood education with an emphasis on special education. Michael Kearney has a master’s degree in education and works as a school administrator. Katerina Kearney enthused that “here at Lightbridge Academy of Millburn, we hope to inspire our children to be creative, independent thinkers who will develop passions for learning, all in a loving, safe environment that welcomes fun and imagination.”
The center’s director, Elizabeth Freeman, has an educational background in early childhood education and psychology and has nearly 15 years of early childhood experience throughout New Jersey. Freeman was thrilled with the excellent attendance of enrolled and potential students. She called the curriculum “Seedlings” designed to “develop and nurture the whole child in different learning styles incorporating different learning theories, including Montessori, Howard Gardner, and Jean Piaget.”
The assistant director, Alycia Delesky, has both early childhood education and managerial experience. It is the founders’ goal to “create a nurturing center where we balance care, connection, and a create fun learning environment where everyone feels safe and inspired.”
The Millburn center has a staff of ten teachers and an early childhood educator, a child psychologist, and Child Development Specialists. The maximum number of students the facility can accommodate is 146. Assistant Director Delesky states that the center caters to children from six weeks to five years. It contains two classrooms for each age group that is broken down into infants, toddlers, preschool, and prekindergarten. The classrooms have different learning domains to accommodate the learning styles of each child. The toddler and preschool classes teach letter recognition. The program is described as “learning without tears” where the children learn to write letters and their names.
Sheena Chavez, a toddler teacher stated that “she loves to see the children’s growth and takes great pleasure in their progress throughout the school year. A child has good days and bad days and all make for a whole child.”
Laura Rodriguez, a pre-kindergarten teacher who is certified for teaching kindergarten through third grade, “loves that the Seedlings program is thematic and incorporates technology and is a very interactive way of learning.”
Katerina Freeman, the school’s director, explains that there are two camera views of each classroom and the multipurpose room and outdoor playground. The cameras’ views are projected into the school office and are accessible to the parents through Parentview internet monitoring which uses biometric fingerprint scanning. All doors to the facility are secure.
An engineering company formerly occupied the premises, but the space was reconfigured and designed into a light-filled school by architect company Jam Arch.