Gearhart Kids Academy receives boost from Windermere Stellar


By Sue Cody


Christy BispingOn the heels of discovering that the Cannon Beach Preschool and Children’s Center was closing, Director Christy Bisping jumped into action to form Gearhart Kids Academy.


She knew there was already a shortage of options, so opening her own preschool and daycare seemed like a natural progression.


“I was worried about the kids. They needed somewhere to go,” Bisping says.


The Children’s Center closes April 30 and the Gearhart Academy opens May 2.


“It will be a challenge to get all the furniture moved and set up,” Bisping says.


Windermere Stellar stepped in to give the Academy a boost. Pam Ackley, a member of The Way to Wellville Advisory Council and a Windermere broker, presented a check for $2,000 to the council April 11. 


“We are overwhelmed by the resource needs in this community and are happy to make this happen,” says Ackley. She is a representative of the Windermere Foundation, which supports homeless families and children’s organizations in the communities it serves.


“All the money for these projects is donated from Windermere Stellar agents’ sales commissions. When you list with Windermere, it helps support your community,” Ackley says.


The Way to Wellville shepherded the funds to support the Academy, as part of its mission to provide early childhood education to Clatsop County. The Emotional Health team focuses on early education by preparing children for kindergarten and beyond. With a new facility opening, The Way to Wellville’s Economic Development team saw an opportunity to assist a new business. CareOregon also gave $1,500 to the cause.


“Most of the money is being used to buy materials from the Cannon Beach center,” Bisping says. This includes tables and chairs. “We are also buying high-quality materials and manipulable wooden toys, purposeful toys.”


Gearhart Kids Academy


The Academy will be based on Montessori principles. Bisping says she saw things turn around at the Cannon Beach center when a teacher introduced Montessori ideas. Montessori encourages children to learn at their own pace, using sensory motor activities. Bisping says the children were more engaged and involved in activities than when they were using electronic toys.


Two teachers from the Cannon Beach Center will be employed at the Academy, which will serve children from 6 weeks to 12 years old. There will be room for 50 children, but they will start with the 12 already enrolled.


The Cannon Beach center was the only child care provider in Clatsop County to meet the 3-star rating of Oregon’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). The rating system sets standards for health, safety, professional development, curriculum and parent involvement for daycare providers, says Tara Mestrich, Family Care Connection administrative program specialist. Programs are rated with three to five stars after reaching certain benchmarks.


“It was disheartening to lose it,” Bisping says.


Mestrich says QRIS is waiving the two-year waiting period, so the Academy can reapply once it has plans in place. She would like to see all providers in the county reach the 3-star rating, but the big issue is professional development. “There aren’t many educational opportunities in the rural setting.” She and others at the Early Learning Hub are working to help bring that education to caregivers in the county.


Preschool donation checkPam Ackley, a broker with Windermere Stellar and a member of The Way to Wellville Advisory Council, presented a $2,000 check from Windermere Stellar to the council April 11. From left are Dan Gaffney, Ackley, Debbie Morrow and Steven Blakesley. The check is to support Gearhart Kids Academy, which is replacing the Cannon Beach Preschool and Children’s Center.