Fingerprint coded entry locks. Silent alarms. Internet-enabled surveillance cameras. These features are not found in a bank, but a pre-school. Lightbridge Academy, a childcare provider located on Federal City Road, has security features that would have seemed extreme a decade ago, but which are now demanded by parents.
In fact, the entire school is set up as much to address the anxieties of parents as the needs of its students. Parents can even log in to the facility’s surveillance cameras at any time to get a live view of what their child is up to.
“When you leave your child in someone else’s care, more than anything else, you care about the basic needs of safety and security,” said Galina Flider, who is opening the latest location of the Iselin-based Lightbridge Academy. Construction is underway and the school, which will serve ages six weeks to five years, is aiming to open in October.
“Once you know safety and security are satisfied, then you can focus on higher level things like educational, social, and emotional comfort. I think that is important. Unfortunately in today’s society it has become a necessity rather than something that’s nice to have,” Flider says.
The academy brands its approach to day care as a “circle of care” that is centered on the child but also includes the interest of the parents, staff, community, and franchise owners. That approach appealed to Flider, who has opened the franchise after a move away from a career in the finance industry. She grew up in Iselin and has a degree in business from Rutgers and an MBA from Columbia. “I come from a family of educators,” she said. “My mom and grandparents were all teachers in preschool and elementary school, and I always wanted to get involved with child care.”
Flider said she wanted to move from the corporate world, where she was in leadership development, to the education world, where she could see more tangible results from her work. “I wanted to do something that I was proud of and that my kids could feel proud of,” she said. “I really wanted to do something that contributes to the community and society.”
She looked at several childcare franchises, but decided Lightbridge had the best and least corporate-seeming approach, and also liked their use of technology to help parents and students.
A good example of how Lightbridge aims to relieve parental anxiety is their way of handling pizza. To someone without kids in day care, this may seem like a small issue. But Flider said that when her own children were in preschool, pizza somehow became a daily source of stress. The school charged them $1.50 every time each child ate pizza on a Friday, and would occasionally send out pizza-related bills and asked her to fill out pizza forms. “They really made me suffer,” she said. “I don’t want my kids to be the only one not having pizza because I didn’t fill out a form. It was very stressful to me, even as a successful executive at a financial management firm, to make sure my kid had pizza.”
Lightbridge just includes the price of pizza as a cost of doing business and doesn’t bother the parents about it. Same goes for sunblock, for example. If a child shows up without it, the teacher will just give the kid some sunblock, whereas some other day care centers would follow up with an additional fee. “We know working parents have so many things to worry about, and we try to keep their lives as simple as possible,” she said.
The cameras are also a parental stress reliever. Rather than worrying what their child is up to, a parent can just hop on the Internet and see exactly what is happening through a webcam.
“Lightbridge doesn’t just focus on taking care of the child. They really do believe strongly in the circle of care, which means being good to your teachers,” Flider said. She said she has hired a school director with a master’s in education, and wants an assistant director with at least a bachelor’s degree. The assistant teachers will have child care certificates. She hopes that Rider and TCNJ, both of which have early childhood education programs, will be good recruiting grounds for employees.
Flider said the cost of enrolling a child has not been finalized, but will vary depending on age from around $1,100 to $1,500 a month.
Lightbridge has a total of 25 centers throughout New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, including one in Plainsboro, two in North Brunswick, and one in East Windsor.
Lightbridge Academy, 100 Federal City Road, Building B, Lawrenceville 08648. 609-543-9700. Galina Flider, owner. www.lightbridgeacademy.com.