Begin With Us is open year round, Monday through Friday from 6:30 AM until 11:30 PM. We close only for the holidays listed below:
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
- New Year’s Day
We also close at 4:30 PM on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Our summer camp program closes at 5:30 PM daily. Evening care is available after summer camp closes.
Each older infant through school age classroom has a posted daily schedule. Schedules provide a framework for planning children’s daily experiences. The schedules are predictable, yet flexible. Schedules are followed but we allow adaptations and modifications to meet the individual needs of children and our program’s goals and objectives.
The schedules provide time for proper transitions between activities, group time, individual and self-initiated learning, centers (block, dramatic play, table activities, art, music, sensory, technology, science, writing, and relaxation), indoor and outdoor experiences, and play. Daily schedules are responsive to the children’s needs to rest and be active. Some classroom projects are extended over the course of several days.
Our expert caregivers offer a carefully balanced schedule of activities and rest time to meet the needs of every infant. Each baby follows his or her own schedule for eating, sleeping, playing, and snuggling. We provide parents with an individual daily log of activities. The report notes naps, feedings, diaper changes, and the infant’s overall daily disposition. We provide a smooth transition from your child’s time at Begin With Us to your time together at home.
Begin With Us does not delay opening or closing for inclement weather. Parents decide if it is the best interest of their children to attend on days when our local school district closes.
In the event of an emergency closing, parents will be notified of the closing via a social media posting on Facebook, by television on WTAJ news station, on the WeAreCentralPA.com website, and through a notification via text or e-mail through the Remind App system. In order to receive notices through the Remind App system, parents must provide their cellular telephone number and/or e-mail during registration.
Specific to Pre-K Counts classrooms only:
The threat of winter weather could create the need to cancel Pre-K Counts classrooms for the day. We will follow the Altoona Area School District (AASD) schedule for weather related closings. In the event that AASD is not in session due to a scheduled inservice or holiday, Begin With Us will adhere to the following procedures for the Pre-K Counts classrooms only:
- We will post to the Begin With Us Facebook page. Be sure to “like” our page and check for updates.
- We will send out a notification via the Remind App. In order to receive these text notifications, we will provide instructions on how to register.
- We will send out an email to the List Serv. In order to receive these email notifications, we will provide instructions on how to be added to the email list.
- We will post to WTAJ news station via WeAreCentralPA.com.
- Private pay care will be available for Pre-K Counts students. If you need care for your child when a Pre-K Counts classroom is closed for the day, please call the office at 814-941-0606 to schedule your child.
Begin With Us centers are located in the heart of Altoona at 703, 711, and 729 Grant Avenue. We also operate a Pre-Kindergarten program and Summer Camp program at 711-717 Pleasant Valley Boulevard. Spacious play yards are part of our campus.
Begin With Us has an on-site chef that prepares a wholesome breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and evening snack for the children. All of our meals are nutritionally based. Meals, snacks, and drinks are provided at no additional cost to families.
Begin With Us participates in the United State Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. Weekly menus are posted in each classroom. Food allergies and restrictions are carefully honored.
The quality of our teaching staff and the programs at Begin With Us are maintained by tuition. Tuition is charged based on enrollment, not attendance. Please request a current rate sheet from the Director.
Payment is due on or before each Friday morning, the week of service.
The following practitioner/teacher–to–child ratios are met at all times:
- Infant/Older Infant: Birth through 12 months. Ratio 1:4
- Young Toddler: 13 through 23 months. Ratio 1:5
- Older Toddler/Little Young Preschool/Young Preschool: 24 through 36 months. Ratio 1:6
- Preschool: 37 months through 48 months. Ratio 1:10
- Pre-Kindergarten: 49 months through 60 months. Ratio 1:10
- Young School Age: Kindergarten through third grade. Ratio 1:12
- Older School Age: Fourth grade through 13 years of age. Ratio 1:15
The current programs serve children ages 6 weeks through 13 years. The centers have specific, structured programs for toddlers, preschool, and pre-kindergarten children. The centers also provide infant care, before and after school care, and summer camp for kindergarten and school-age children.
To safeguard the health and well-being of the children and teaching staff and to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, we require parents to keep their child at home if he/she displays symptoms and conditions listed in out “Attendance and Absence” policy that can be found in our “Handbook for Parents.” The policy will be reviewed with all families during the admission process.
Children are assessed each day when entering the program. Any health conditions which alert our staff during the “Daily Health Check” will be immediately reported to the child’s parent and the Director. If the child appears too ill to remain at the center, the parent will be asked to take the child home for the day. The “Daily Health Check” policy will be reviewed with all families during the admission process.
Parents are permitted free access, without prior notice, throughout the center whenever their child is in care. The only exception is when a court of competent jurisdiction has limited the parental right of access to the child and a copy of the order is on file at the center.
At Begin With Us, we respect and build positive relationships and the development of friendships between practitioners/teachers and children. We play together and learn from each other.
Practitioners/Teachers model and foster children’s emotional well-being by demonstrating respect for children, by listening to and responding to them, and by creating a positive emotional environment as reflected in behaviors, such as frequent social conversations, joint laughter, and affection. We express warmth through behaviors, such as physical affection, eye contact, tone of voice, and smiles. We are consistent and predictable in our physical and emotional care of all children.
We support and recognize children’s work, accomplishments, and contributions to the group. Practitioners/Teachers function as security for the children by creating a predictable, consistent, and harmonious classroom and building relations with every child in the program.
We believe in a positive approach to discipline. Re-direction to another activity is used the majority of the time. Emphasis is placed on positive reinforcement to lead the children to make choices toward their own self-discipline.
The children’s expressions of feelings (e.g. crying, laughing, angry storming, sadness, etc.) are not only tolerated but encouraged by a respectful, listening attitude on the part of the practitioners/teachers who will attempt to help the children clarify these emotions through reflection. We encourage children to “say their words”, identify their feelings, and describe the problem to resolve conflict instead of hitting, biting, or pushing.
Children are encouraged to listen to one another and to provide comfort to each other when a friend is sad or distressed. We promptly respond in developmentally appropriate ways to emotions and feelings of children by providing comfort, support, and assistance. Practitioners/Teachers may change their responses based upon individual needs, such as different abilities, temperaments, activity levels, and the cognitive and social development of the children.
Limits and rules are necessary to protect the safety of each child. They are enforced in a firm, but positive manner. Practitioners/Teachers try to avoid conflicts between children by listening, watching, and assessing situations carefully so they can step in early to avoid bullying, teasing, rejecting, or hurting another child.
We also use praise and attention wisely to encourage cooperation, negotiation of shared materials, care of the classroom, and helpfulness. We engage in meaningful and extended conversations with each child to clarify acceptable behaviors.
The Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten general classroom rules are as follows:
- We use our words.
- We walk inside.
- We take turns.
- We are kind to our friends.
- We use our manners.
However, children are provided the opportunity to participate in decision making about classroom rules, plans, and activities.
Time-out is only used in circumstances when a child is disruptive to the total learning environment.
We NEVER use physical discipline. We never use threats or derogatory remarks. Other forms of discipline such as shouting, shaming, or withholding food are NEVER used.
Practitioners/Teachers give one-on-one attention to infants when engaging in care-giving routines and adjust their interactions to engage in frequent face-to-face social interactions each day. These include both verbal behaviors (e.g., talking, cooing, repeating infant sounds, singing) and nonverbal behaviors (e.g., smiling, touching, holding). We are sensitive to various signals and learn to read infants’ and toddlers’ cries or other signs of distress by quickly responding and providing physical comfort and needed care. We facilitate appropriate social interactions when an infant is interested in looking at, touching, or vocalizing to others.
We always make time to talk with parents about their child’s day!
All practitioners/teachers and administrators are fully certified in Pediatric First Aid and Infant/Toddler Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Begin With Us recognizes that providing high quality child care and educational experiences for young children begins with a committed, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff. Our teaching staff are oriented to our program in areas of nutrition, health and safety, language development, positive interactions, curriculum, developmental screening, assessment, inclusion, diversity, developmentally appropriate practice, age appropriate standards, adult child interactions, first aid, and mandated reporter requirements. Annual professional development training and attendance at regional, state, and national conferences give our teaching staff the tools they need to provide young child and families with the best care and education possible. All professional development is based on the Pennsylvania Core Body of Knowledge which is a set of early childhood competencies linked to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards that need to be mastered by all those working with children.
- 83% of our staff have obtained a master’s, bachelor’s, or associate’s degree, Child Development Associates (CDA), or are currently enrolled in an accredited program.
- 82% of our Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten teachers hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree with certification.
Parents are invited and encouraged to be involved in their child’s days while at Begin With Us. Over the years, parents have become an integral part of classroom celebrations, lessons, enrichment, and just plain fun!
There are many different ways in which parents can participate and volunteer at the centers. Parents may volunteer to attend field trips, read in the classroom, assist teachers, assist with creating individual learning goals for their child, and coordinate special events or specific activities.
We view our program as a learning community in which there is constant collaboration between parents, teachers, our administration, and support service agencies. Our overall goal is for parents to be involved in their child’s education and individual learning needs. It is our hope that parents will share with us their unique culture and ethnicity of which their family is comprised and allow us to incorporate their customs, traditions, values, and aspirations into our program. We hope that parents feel welcome to share openly and feel the sense of community that we create together.
Our “Parent Advisory Committee” is a great opportunity to become actively involved in program decision making. We welcome and encourage parental participation in our program!
We are proud of the special events that are available to our families. They provide wonderful opportunities to meet others, build memories, engage in our program, and have fun. Family events are scheduled throughout the year and include the Winter Family Holiday Party and Summer Family Picnic. Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten families may also participate in Breakfast for Grandparents, Muffins with Moms, and Donuts with Dads breakfasts. Pre-Kindergarten families celebrate Pre-Kindergarten Graduation at the end of the school year. Evening trainings and other family social events are offered based upon parental desires and suggestions.
Our Pre-Kindergarten classrooms often extend their learning by exploring our county through field trips. They attend several plays at the local historic Mishler Theatre and travel to local dairy and orchard farms each fall. Parents are always encouraged and welcomed to join us!
The School Age children who are enrolled in our summer camp, “Camp Us”, also experience many fun field trips throughout the community. Our school age “Explorers” who are children entering grades 1st through 6th partake in several field trips each summer. The trips vary each summer and may include Chimney Rocks Park, Canal Basin Park, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, Johnstown Flood National Memorial Museum, Fort Roberdeau, Lincoln Caverns, Rails to Trails, Canoe Creek State Park and other historical sites.
In addition, the Explorers help to plan many entertaining excursions. Summer favorites include: walking to Valley View Park, roller skating at Morrison’s Cove Memorial Park, bowling at Pleasant Valley Bowling Center, visiting a wildlife refuge center, hiking at the nature trails at Canoe Creek State Park, and attending the Altoona Curve’s Super Splash Day.
We know how important it is for parents to be involved and informed of their child’s educational experiences and days spent at Begin With Us. We work hard to develop open and honest communication with the families and to ensure that information is exchanged on a daily basis. Newsletters, e-mails, hard copy postings of menus and reminders, social media postings, flyers, personal notes, telephone calls, “Getting to Know You Meetings”, classroom calendars, and formal conferences are all ways in which we openly share information with families.
Communication is especially critical at the infant and toddler ages. Information about infant’s eating, sleeping, and other relevant day’s events are recorded on daily communication sheets, which assist parents in assessing their child’s day.
White boards that are located in each classroom list daily and weekly activities and classroom news. Our monthly newsletters and classroom calendars also provide pertinent information about center policies and procedures, announcements, and special events.
Parents are constantly reminded to communicate openly and frequently with us to make the most of each and every day!
Informal observations and formal assessments of children are completed throughout the year, and are reviewed with families during parent-teacher conferences that are held in fall, winter and spring. Conferences are a good time for parents and teachers to discuss each child’s development, and for the teachers to gather information that will help them to support the family. Together, parents and teachers et individual goals for each child. Teachers are always available on a daily basis at drop-off and pick-up times to talk with parents and to answer questions.
At Begin With Us, we use Creative Curriculum as well as the Pennsylvania Learning Standards for Early Childhood as our framework for curriculum and assessment design.
Supplemental curriculums include:
- Language and Literacy: “Kid Writing” and “Handwriting Without Tears”
- Logical Mathematics: “Stepping Stones” and “Everyday Math”
- Physical Health: “Color Me Healthy” and “I am Moving, I am Learning”
- Social and Emotional: “Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies” (PATHS) and “Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving” (ICPS)
The first five years of life are very important to every child because this time sets the stage for success in school and later in life. During infancy and early childhood, many experiences should be gained and many skills learned. It is important to ensure that each child’s development is proceeding without problem; therefore, we are interested in helping parents follow their child’s growth and development.
Upon consent of parents, Ages and Stages Developmental Screenings are conducted by our teaching staff throughout each child’s enrollment. Begin With Us teachers/practitioners screen and monitor each child’s development using the “Ages and Stages Questionnaires”. These questionnaires that are administered at various stages of development. Each questionnaire, completed by our teachers/practitioners, who care for the child on a daily basis, contains simple questions addressing specific developmental areas. There is also a part on the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire” for parental input. Results are then shared with parents and next steps are taken as deemed necessary.
On-site vision, speech, hearing, dental and overall developmental screenings are also administered to preschool and pre-kindergarten children by local agencies and/or the local school district. We work closely with the local early intervention agency and the local school district to provide the most appropriate supportive services to the children enrolled at our centers.
We use “The Ounce Scale” (OUNCE) for the assessment of children ages birth through 3 years and Work Sampling System (WSS) for the assessment of our Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten children. Both are performance assessment tools that allow teachers to obtain a whole picture on each individual child. The teachers are able to observe, document and evaluate children’s skills, knowledge, and behaviors using classroom experiences and activities. Each child is assessed three times a year; fall, winter, and spring.
The assessment tools consist of a checklist of a child’s progression and mastery in seven different domains of learning. There are narrative summary reports that are written and shared with the child’s family and with other educators as necessary.
For the Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten children, the teachers compile a portfolio for each child which contain samples of the work that best represents the individual child’s ability.
Teachers use computers to record child observations, utilize on-line assessment and screening programs, research topics of interest for daily lessons, and record lesson plans. All children enrolled at Begin With Us have the opportunity to enhance learning through computer experiences. Teachers and children have access to desktop and laptop computers and iPads. Our teaching staff also use digital cameras to capture memories throughout the year.
Begin With Us is proud to be a Keystone STAR Facility!
Begin With Us centers are STAR 4 in the State’s Keystone STARS Program!
What is Keystone STARS?
Keystone STARS is a system of continuous quality improvement for child care through Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Support. Keystone STARS is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning to improve, support, and recognize QUALITY child care programs in Pennsylvania.
Child care providers are awarded a STAR One, STAR Two, STAR Three, or STAR Four quality rating based on their achievement of quality performance standards in the areas of staff education, learning environment, and administration. The star rating reflects standards of quality that are research based and linked to improved outcomes for children as related to social and emotional development, learning skills, and school readiness.
The Keystone STARS program provides resources to assist in improving quality. It recognizes quality early learning programs, establishes standards for performance, provides financial incentives to programs, and designates from one to four stars to programs that meet the standards. Keystone STARS provides parents with a framework for identifying early learning programs that are committed to improving child outcomes.
We use the “Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale” as a tool in designing and assessing our classroom and outdoor environments and daily schedule. The tool assists us in focusing on a balance of child-initiated activities, free play, direct teacher instruction, outdoor play, rest, and meal times. We set the stage for learning through our carefully designed environment, child sized furnishings, daily structure, intentional materials, and lesson plans.