New preschool to open on city’s west side

Aug. 2, 2019

Mel Wehrkamp wasn’t planning to run a preschool and pre-kindergarten program out of her house, but when her commercial lease didn’t materialize, she improvised.

This school year, Little Wings Preschool will open out of a space she renovated in her west-side home, and her dream of educating young minds and encouraging excitement through learning will begin.

Wehrkamp’s husband owns the Fit Body Boot Camp gym in Sioux Falls, and she said watching him follow his passion inspired her to do the same.

The 2011 Southeast Technical Institute graduate was previously a preschool teaching assistant at Truks-N-Trykes child care and preschool, which she said reaffirmed the notion that being a teacher was what she wanted to do.

“Working with kids and teaching them has always been something I’m really passionate about,” she said. “Once I started, I loved it. It instantly gave me that purpose I was looking for.”

The in-home school 5629 W. Mandy Court will host preschool classes of up to 12 children at a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week starting Aug. 26. Wehrkamp is the sole teacher and will offer both 8:15 to 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 to 3:15 p.m. classes each day.

Children must be 3 years old by Sept. 1 and fully potty trained to qualify for the Little Wings Preschool.

The pre-kindergarten class will operate during the same time blocks, but on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and potential students must be 4 years old by Sept. 1 and fully potty trained.

The school year runs from Aug. 26 to May 16 and costs $115 per month for preschoolers and $175 for pre-kindergarteners, and Wehrkamp said slots are filling up quickly.

There are currently nine students enrolled in the preschool program and four in pre-kindergarten, and Wehrkamp hopes to fill more slots by the beginning of the school year.

Both classes will focus heavily on social skills, but the curricula are different in how they prepare the kids for their next steps.

The preschool program will teach kids shapes, numbers and letters, while the pre-kindergarteners will start working on handwriting and, toward the end of the year, reading.

The South Dakota Department of Education’s Early Learning Guidelines set developmental goals for each stage of a child’s life, and research shows that children who receive quality care and education in preschool programs are better prepared for school than those who don’t.

When plans for a Little Wings Preschool commercial space fell through last-minute, Wehrkamp and her husband remodeled a family room in their basement to make it a fully functional classroom.

“It doesn’t even look like an in-home classroom,” she said. “There is a lot of open space and nice hardwood floors.”

Wehrkamp is hosting an open house Aug. 22 to give children and parents the chance to meet her and see their new classroom.

“I hope it goes smoothly, especially it being my first year I’m a little nervous,” she said. “But as long as I’m caring for them and teaching them, I know they’re going to get the most out of it that they can.”

For information about Little Wings Preschool, visit Wehrkamp’s website or Facebook page.

New preschool to open on city’s west side

Little Wings Preschool opens this school year on the west side.

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