Experts offer tips for picking daycare centers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Experts offer tips for finding right daycare

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Picking the right school can be one of the toughest and most important decisions a parent will ever make.

Ruth Rushing has dedicated the last three decades of her life to children. As the director of the Savannah Christian Preparatory School's Daycare, she said she feels blessed to be able to make a career out of educating little ones.

"You have to have the calling. You have to love children. It's an awesome job," she told WTOC.

Rushing said she always wants parents to feel comfortable, as they are leaving "their most prized possession virtually in the hands of strangers."

For many parents, doing so can be tough. The first step in picking the right school is scheduling a visit.

Maggie Smith, owner of Maggie's Morning School in Savannah, said she can't stress enough the importance of making a good first impression. She said ask yourself "What type of feeling do you get when you go in a center, is there happy noise?"

But, before you go, make sure you know what you're looking for. The rules and guidelines for early child care centers are very specific. Bright From the Start, the Department of Early Childcare and Learning, is the body that regulates, licenses and monitors childcare programs in the state of Georgia.

"These programs go through a very intensive process of submitting information to the state to become quality-rated," said Sherry Costa, director of the Childcare Resource and Referral Agency at Savannah Technical College. Her agency is funded by Bright from the Start.

To stay licensed by the state, childcare centers undergo a minimum of two visits per year. In these visits inspectors check everything from cleanliness to teacher/student ratios. They also check to make sure teachers are completing their mandatory training hours each year. In addition to those 10 training hours, in the state of Georgia a lead classroom teacher is required to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood to be part of the Bright Start funded pre-K program.

The state of Georgia also applies strict student-teacher ratios. No more than six infants are allowed per teacher.

"When they're walking, 8 to one, when they become two it can be 10-1, and when they're three it's 15-1," Rushing explained.

Cleanliness is also a huge factor to take into consideration when looking for schools.

"A red flag for me would be when I walk through the door if there's not a pleasant smell," Rushing said.

When touring a school, look for plenty of hand-washing stations, wipes, soap and gloves. But, most importantly, follow your instincts.

"There are a lot of good centers you have to find one that speaks to your needs as a family, but also don't just go on hearsay," Smith said.

Copyright 2013 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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