Housed in a colorful, 8,700 square foot building with room to grow, Gessner Kiddie Kollege in the Brays Oaks Management District offers far more than daycare for children cared for by adults who work full time.
Billed as an early childhood education center, it is more of a school than day care center, complete with a full-time curriculum specialist on staff to make sure academics are first rate.
Owned and operated by Jamila and Amin Lakhani since 2010, with daughter Nilufer “Nil” Lakhani on staff, the private school was open and running through the COVID pandemic. Current staff numbers total 21 and the student enrollment is 115 students, full and part time. It is fully licensed as a daycare for ages 0-12.
Jamila has a passion for early childhood education and is the driving force behind the quality care and education for children from six weeks old to age 12. She opened the business after her own children were grown and moved from her home.
The facility’s full-service amenities include transporting its youngsters to and from area schools that serve as convenient neighborhood pick-up and drop-off points for parents and guardians.
The school invites Houston Community College students to observe its operations as part of their studies. Some of the college students become staff members at Kiddie Kollege.
Staff instructs the kids following curriculum guidelines. Shelley Byrd, with 40 years of experience in early children education, is the director of curriculum.
“We offer engaging activities, interactive learning, STEM activities, art activities, and outdoor play,” Nil Lakhani said. For full-time attendees, “we have classrooms for infants, early walkers, toddlers, tWO-year-olds, pre-kindergarten threes, and prekindergarten fours.”
Infant care and younger children have less structure and are focused on stimulating sensory activities and play.
Morning curriculum for the pre-kindergarten classes includes story time, reading, counting and matching activities, morning exercise and outdoor play.
Children sleep or rest on their personal mats and hear soft music with lights out. Play and free time activities take place in the later afternoon.
“We try to develop a child with the strongest growth and development that we can accomplish so that when they matriculate to a full-time school program, they are well prepared,” Nil said.
Full-time kids are served three meals a day, through a cafeteria and a chef who prepares meals that conform with food program guidelines.
Part-time children who come after school can get help with homework and take part in structured activities. They also participate in dinner if needed or they can take their meal to go.
“With afterschool activities, we have lots of music, lots of movement and dancing, and great outdoor play at our playground,” Nil said. “There is even a field for soccer.”
Kiddie Kollege’s next focus is building out an additional 3,000 square feet of space to offer a better dedicated area for after-school students. They hope to add 75 such students when the project is completed with a target date in May.
One testimonial about the school comes from Warren and Stacie Cormier:
“Gessner Kiddie Kollege has been a wonderful experience for our family. They truly exemplify what it means for a school to be an extension of the home. From our very first day with our first child, GKK has been a warm, safe, nurturing, and comforting environment. We now have all three of our children attending GKK. GKK’s passionate teachers have done an exemplary job helping us get our daughter ready for kindergarten. Our son is now in Pre-K 4, and we know he will be prepared to start kindergarten as well for next year.
“The teachers are all experienced and dedicated to the profession of developing young children academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. The proof of the school’s enthusiasm, creativity and passion for the kids is told to us by both our kids on car rides home from school. Words cannot truly express how grateful we are to find this gem of a school.”
Gessner Kiddie College
8995 W. Bellfort Ave.
— By Arlene Nisson Lassin