ARCANUM — The day begins early (5 a.m. to be exact) for Kathy Pearson, as founder and owner of Little University, a new daycare and preschool located in the Old Arcanum School at 110 E. South Street.
While the official hours are 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, Pearson understands the needs of area families for early availability. Thus the reason for her predawn arrival to the facility every day. It is a need for childcare that inspired Pearson to open Little University in the first place.
Originally with a background in healthcare, Pearson was inspired to switch careers for several reasons. First, after taking care of her seven grandchildren over the years. Something she enjoyed. Second, as a former single mom, understanding the challenges parents face and the need to support them. She shared the familiar quote — it takes a village to raise a child.
“We needed a daycare in the area, and now we have one,” said Pearson, who has worked in a daycare before and is currently working towards licensing. She noted her “awesome staff” composed of two full-time and three part-time employees. Her goal is to be different, to offer a family-friendly environment, and sees the children as an extension of her own. But every dream begins with that initial first big step, and for Pearson, it was finding the perfect location. She grew up in the village but currently resides in the Tri-Village school district.
“I about gave up,” said Pearson when the former school on South Street went up for sale. It was perfect timing, she says, but did not realize the location was originally a school.
According to a historical record provided to Pearson, the two-story, four-room school was built in 1876. The building served as a school until the 1920s and was host to a variety of businesses over the years from a library to a motor shop, even a discount store.
In 1992, the tornado that swept through the village did extensive damage to the west side of the building. However, there is no evidence of any former owners, let alone a tornado. The location has been transformed back to its original state as a school. The entry is open, full of natural light, with a long reception desk to welcome guests. The rooms are bright and spacious with tall ceilings. Each room is host to a set age group and is decorated as such. A set of cribs and high chairs await children, as does an assortment of toys and activities. A recently added set of restrooms is the perfect size for little ones.
Pearson, with contagious energy, shared her plans for the daycare from additional restrooms to allow for more occupancy to a commercial kitchen. She wants to avoid “Little Debbie” by offering healthy food and snacks. She also has big plans for the playground with a desire to stay away from the traditional.
“I remember being a kid,” said Pearson, explaining her dream list includes a stage, a gravel pit for children to dig in, even a weeping willow to allow children to “enter into a whole new world of make-believe.”
Pearson also wants to work beyond the traditional ABCs from brushing teeth to saying grace.
Of course, it also takes a village to establish a dream. Pearson cited family as a significant help, especially her husband, Kevin, who works at BASF.
“He’s done a lot,” said Pearson. The couple not only put in hours at their respective jobs but also after hours to continue to make upgrades and additions to Little University.
The hard work has paid off as the Village of Arcanum welcomed Little University with a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday. In attendance was Pearson, along with daycare staff, family members, and village officials.
“Best news a mayor gets is when a new business is moving into town,” said Arcanum Mayor Greg Baumle. He recalled, as a young parent moving into the area a decade ago, and having to travel a distance for childcare. “This was a need for Arcanum; they needed pre and after school care.”
For more information, contact Little University at 937-662-0500 or Kathy Pearson via cell at 937-621-1858. You may also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937/548-3330 or email email@example.com. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.