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Near North News Interview! Sneak Peek!




Establishing a school is a pretty big lift. How did this initiative come about? Who were the main players? The feasibility study started in 2018, paused during the pandemic, and regained momentum in 2023. Bishop Walkoviak of the Grand Rapids Diocese is an unwavering advocate of Catholic education because Catholic schools are the most effective means the Church has created for evangelization. The leading players are vast, ranging from the State of Michigan urging more childcare slots to parishioners who want Catholic education in Newaygo County. Where is the school located? The academy is located in the educational wing of All Saints (500 Iroquois Dr., Fremont). However, Bishop Baraga Academy is an interparochial school of St. Bartholomew (Newaygo), St. Joseph (White Cloud), St. Michael (Brunswick), Christ the King (Hesperia), and All Saints Catholic Church (Fremont).


What are the three top reasons parents and guardians should consider BBA? 

Bishop Baraga offers families childcare, preschool, and future K-5 opportunities with a Montessori curriculum and philosophy, flexible scheduling, and a Catholic faith-based experience.  


·We are Montessori-based. Montessori is a teaching method that helps kids grow and learn independently. It encourages children to be curious and respectful while they learn. In Montessori schools, children get to choose what they want to learn, work with their hands, and play with others. The classrooms are full of activities just right for their age, and specially trained teachers help guide them.

·Flexible Schedules - At Bishop Baraga Academy, we understand the importance of family time. We encourage families to use our daycare and preschool only when needed. If a family member or friend can watch their children for a day or two, we support that valuable time together. You don't have to use our services daily to keep your spot. Our preschool is flexible and available 2, 3, 4, or 5 days a week so that you can choose the best days for your family.

·Catholic Education that welcomes everyone - We are a Catholic faith-based academy, but we welcome all families. We are supported by the Catholic churches in Newaygo, White Cloud, Fremont, Brunswick, and Hesperia. We practice our faith in everything we do and are excited to have a diverse student population. Right now, we have children from various communities registered. Soon, we will be opening a K-5 microschool as well!

 

Childcare is a primary issue in our area these days with a shortage of available slots. Is there any flexibility or sliding scale when it comes to cost?

Bishop Baraga Academy's tuition is a daily rate for childcare and a school-year annual tuition for preschool and the future elementary school. We offer a 10% discount for additional siblings for childcare. We will be accepting the State of Michigan Child Care Assistance, which provides a reimbursement rate for our center that would completely cover the cost of childcare for families that meet the State's qualifications. We will also be accepting the State of Michigan Tri-share program.  

What are the qualifications of your staff? Do you have a student to staff ratio?

Childcare centers and preschools licensed by the State of Michigan are mandated to follow staff-to-student ratios, which vary based on the youngest child in the group. The same is true with staff qualifications; the State of Michigan determines what requirements they must possess, or the center is required to file for a variance for an exception. All of these documents are available at https://www.michigan.gov/mileap/early-childhood-education/cclb/rules

BBA seeks to blend the Montessori method of instruction with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which promotes a personal relationship with God. What does this look like in a day care/preschool setting? Will BBA have an atrium as part of the setting? 

The North American Montessori Curriculum we are using does not explicitly address Catholicism. The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Montessori-based program that allows the children to explore the tenets of our faith through the physical touch of items and self-exploration while learning the names of the articles used during Mass and practicing the essential gestures. Through the experience of seeing these gestures presented one by one, the Mass emerges as the Sacrament of the Gift. The child becomes acquainted with the historical characters of the liturgy through the events of the Last Supper, Christ’s death, and His resurrection. 

 

We understand  BBA is planning on expanding to provide multi-age learning. Is there a tentative timeline for this?

We are interested in our "Kinder-Prep" program in Fall 2025. This program will serve children whose birthday falls after the traditional September 1st for kindergarten. With our unique curriculum, the children can advance at a rate appropriate to their individual needs, so some may be doing kindergarten learning.  

Anything you might like to add?

The Director of Bishop Baraga Academy, Dr. Shari Ann McCarty, is a lifelong Catholic educator with a doctorate in education. Her passion and experience are in the STEM field of mathematics. However, she is well known in the preschool arena for her training of early childhood educators on incorporating higher-order thinking into their classrooms. The Board of Directors ensures Bishop Baraga Academy will provide top-notch, nature-based, professional care and education to the children and families they will serve. 


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