By Sheryl Stanley
Harrisonville Community Church is a busy place throughout the week, not just on Sunday.
During the school year and most summers, it is home to Kinder Kastle Preschool, a Christian preschool serving children ages 3 through 5.
Cindy Payne is the director of Kinder Kastle Preschool, a position she has held for two years. She is also a teacher in one of the classrooms for 4- and 5-year-olds.
“My time in the classroom has been the greatest experience of my career. I love the growth and excitement we are currently experiencing. We are in tune with the community and we are serving their needs with our expanded hours and flexible day schedule.”
Kinder Kastle has expanded hours to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate working families. It is open five days a week during the school year. Parents can enroll their children for the full week or a portion, using either two-day or three-day options.
“Whatever the parents choose, we want to serve the child and provide continuity.”
“Classes at Kinder Kastle are broken down by age, but we look at each child’s overall development. Our curriculum is designed to meet each student’s needs, wherever they may be.”
Payne explained that lessons in the Kinder Kastle classrooms are structured and developmentally appropriate for each child. The curriculum is built around two resources uniquely suited to a Christian preschool.
“We meet the child wherever they are developmentally and go from there.”
One program, Learning without Tears, uses purposeful play, multi-sensory activities and digital apps to help children develop fine motor skills and other talents useful in kindergarten.
“These are unique, hands-on activities to draw kids in.”
Some favorites, she said, include Mat Man, a teaching aid to help children learn shapes and body parts, bean bags and chalkboard art.
Payne said children spend approximately 30 to 45 minutes each day learning scripture, Christian principles and how to pray. For this segment, teachers utilize materials from Purposeful Design Publications, a division of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
“Purposeful Design Publications helps us focus on Jesus and His love for others. It also includes Bible stories from the New and Old Testaments.”
During the Covid-19 shutdown, Payne and the staff used distance learning techniques, including Google classroom and Facebook Live to continue the children’s education.
“The teachers prepared lots of learning packets and we made lots of phone calls to make sure everyone was keeping pace.”
She believes the families did well and students are now prepared to enter kindergarten this fall.
“But I missed being together and learning together.”
This summer, Payne, the board and everyone involved with Kinder Kastle are working to make sure it is a safe, healthy environment.
Going forward, they will be careful to stay on top of any developments regarding Covid-19, make sure each child is healthy and be ready to implement whatever changes are needed.
Besides Payne, the Kinder Kastle staff includes four teachers, an aide and a part-time music instructor.
“Our staff works to make learning fun all year long.”
She said there is a new theme each month with seasonal classroom decorations, songs to learn and other activities.
Payne’s favorite time of the school year is Christmas.
“I enjoy the Christmas program and watching the children perform. Our goal is to bring Christ into Christmas.”
Other special events held annually are Fall Fun Night held in October, Snow Much Fun which is an open house in late January or early February and graduation which was a virtual affair this year for the 20 students who will be going on to kindergarten in the fall.
Kinder Kastle was established in 1968 by the late Dorothy Hartzler.
“The foundations she set in place are tremendous. She served with excellence, and we still uphold her high standards,” Payne said.
Formerly associated with Harrisonville Christian School which closed this spring, Kinder Kastle is now a stand-alone ministry of the church.
“We kept Kinder Kastle because the enrollment was growing,” Payne said.
One reason for the growth, Payne believes, is the number of parents who attended Kinder Kastle as toddlers and now want the same experience for their children.
Payne, for instance, is a former resident of Harrisonville and currently lives in Archie with her husband and three children, two of whom attended Kinder Kastle.
Payne considers her work at Kinder Kastle to be a personal ministry.
“I love the children and all the families. We do not walk through life alone. We are walking through life with others. In my teaching, I am allowing God to minister through me. Nothing I do is about me, it’s about Jesus. I want to serve as many people as possible and glorify God,” she said.
“At this time, the important thing is to provide excellence in education.”
In addition to the professional staff, Kinder Kastle is governed by a five-member volunteer board. Members are Payne, Ginger Holden, Karli Enderle, Emily Stephens and Beau Sellers, operations director.
Sellers is currently working with the church maintenance staff and volunteers to transform the church’s former fellowship hall into a multi-purpose space that will house Kinder Kastle’s library collection and provide room for music activities and lunch.
“It’s going to be nice addition,” he said.
Open enrollment for the 2020-21 school year is now underway. Parents can enroll their children online or in person at the church, 1606 Chapel Dr., Harrisonville. Offices are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Kinder Kastle will accept children of any denomination, although they must be 3 years old by Aug. 1. Currently, Kinder Kastle can serve up to 50 children.
Classes will start in August.
“I’m excited for school to open in the fall. It’s fun to watch relationships develop and grow among students and parents, as well,” Payne said.