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Mark of excellence

Grace Christian Children's Center preschool and daycare receives accreditation from National Lutheran School Association

SPOTLIGHT PHOTOS: NICOLE THILL - Cindy Overstreet, director of Grace Christian Children's Center, gives Parker Beidler, 6, a hug while other students clean up the classroom. Beidler is one of 75 kids enrolled in Grace Christian Children's center over the summer.On one side of Grace Christian Children’s Center, a room full of young children is quiet with “nappers” while another is awash in loud, talkative kids who are coloring and playing dress-up.

It’s a pretty typical day for a program that just received a “great achievement.”

After a lengthy application process, the school in late July received accreditation from the National Lutheran School Accreditation program, making it one of 40 in the state to receive the distinction.

The preschool and daycare center, which has been a state-certified daycare for eight years, recently applied for the recognition. School officials recognized the excellence of the program and wanted to apply for an accolade that would confirm their perception of it.

Cindy Overstreet, director for Grace Christian Children’s Center, worked through the application process with a team of five other volunteers, including the head pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Phil Mann.

The yearlong process forced school officials to take a hard look at what they were best at, but also at what could be improved upon. By looking at the high standards expected of the program, Overstreet said it helped the teachers and employees better themselves.

“You find out where you’re weaker and really see what happens in a school,” Overstreet said. “[But] it’s meant to help you be stronger.”

The NLSA seeks to recognize schools “that provide quality Christian education and engage in continuous improvement,” according to NLSA’s website.

After applying, a NLSA team visits applicant schools to observe them and review any supporting application materials over a three-day period. If it thinks a school meets the requirements, the team makes a recommendation to the NLSA committee. The NLSA committee then reviews the application in full.

A group of students at Grace Christian Children's Center pose for a picture after a coloring session in the afternoon. The preschool and daycare center recently received a national accreditation after a yearlong application process. The committee only meets once yearly, so schools must be recommended before the July deadline or wait another year to apply.

Overstreet said school officials received their letter of accreditation approval just last week. Though the daycare will have to reapply for the accreditation again in five years, they are enjoying the recognition now.

“I’m really proud,” she said. “I think we have a nice place where children can grow.”

Grace Christian Children’s Center is one of the few state-certified daycare programs operating in south Columbia County.

Only about 3 percent of state-certified schools apply for further accreditation, according to Mann. For the daycare program, Mann said the certification process has been helpful because it has allowed him to see problem areas he wasn’t aware of before.

“You start to see things that you’ve been looking right through, because you’ve been looking at it for so long,” Mann said.

Grace Christian Children’s Center has 75 children currently enrolled, but Overstreet expects that number to nearly double when school is back in session.

Open five days per week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the center is open to children from 30 months to 12 years old. Families do not need to be members of the church to enroll their children in the preschool or daycare.

On Sunday, Sept. 27, Grace Lutheran Church plans to host a celebration to mark Grace Christian Children’s Center’s success with the accreditation. The celebration will occur during regular church service, at which time the school will receive a glass plaque from the NSLA.