Right before Spring Break last year, the Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of Meadow Pointe had 264 students enrolled. With new owner Payel Dutt and director Roxanne Jeffcoat, the school — a licensed childcare facility for children ages six weeks to 12 years — was thriving.
Then, all of a sudden, everything changed.
As the Covid crisis began and people were told to stay home, public schools closed, and many families pulled their kids out of daycare.
“By the end of March in 2020,” says Payel, “we had 12 kids enrolled.”
However, Payel and Roxanne were determined to keep the doors open for those 12 kids, who were from families of front-line workers.
One such family was the Johnsons, who live in New Tampa. Julie is a nurse and her husband, Desmond, is a nurse anesthetist. Their daughters, Kyah (now 5) and Kenna (now 3), attend Kids ‘R’ Kids.
“We have no family here,” explains Julie, “so daycare is our only option. We were very concerned about what we were going to do. So many centers closed.”
But, Kids ‘R’ Kids didn’t. That’s what Payel says her school is all about — connecting with families and serving the community, while doing what’s best for kids.
“It’s about being here for our children and their parents,” says Payel. “We still paid our teachers. We tried to make sure we were here keeping kids safe.”
Over time, as the crisis has waned and families’ needs have changed, the children have started to come back. Many new families have joined the school community, too. The center is growing again, as it is now back up to more than 150 students.
Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of Meadow Pointe first opened at its County Line Rd. and Mansfield Blvd. location in 2006. When the original owner retired in August 2019, Payel and her husband, Prabir Das, purchased the local franchise, which has more than 170 locations across the United States.
Payel’s previous career was as a financial analyst, but she wanted to own her own business. As a mom of two kids, now 8 and 12, she says she is passionate about helping families who need daycare and wanted to use her experience to be hands-on in running her new business.
The following January, in 2020, they hired Roxanne, who has 30 years of experience in childcare. Roxanne lives in Wesley Chapel, where she started working at a small school which her kids — now 29, 27, and 25 — attended. She continued her career, becoming licensed by the State of Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a Director about seven years ago.
“She is awesome,” says Payel. “We go hand in hand.”
The respect is clearly mutual, as Roxanne says about Payel, “Most owners don’t do the things I’ve seen her do. She’s here every day, and that’s a real big motivator for the staff. We’re not asking anyone to do anything that we’re not doing ourselves.”
In fact, Payel used the slower times of the pandemic to also get credentialed as a Director by DCF, so that she can better understand all the nuances of the day-to-day operations of running a school.
Payel and Roxanne emphasize that while they are part of a large franchise, which can sometimes get a bad rap, the school is there for one main purpose — to serve the local community.
“We’re very family oriented,” says Roxanne. “And we’re all about the kids.”
One benefit of being part of a franchise is the school’s exclusive curriculum, with learning methods supported by leading educational theories. Its Brain Waves curriculum is designed to stimulate brain development during the most critical years.
Kids of all ages use learning stations, math manipulatives, science elements and stimulating visuals, with lots of hands-on learning and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (aka “STEAM”) activities. In fact, Kids ‘R’ Kids has a dedicated STEAM teacher who leads the students in activities such as making thermometers, kinetic sand, storm in a jar, snow globes, slime and crystals.
Last fall, with restrictions in place that prevented students from going on field trips, the staff came up with the idea to set up a dramatic play area featuring a campground. The teachers lined the classroom walls with black paper and stars to look like a night sky, then the kids helped fill in the space by making trees, a bonfire, sticks with marshmallows, and a pond complete with fish and lily pads.
“The kids did story time in there, and pretended they were camping,” Roxanne explains. “They went into caves and read stories. It was quite an adventure.”
Full-Time, After-School Care & More
Kids ‘R’ Kids of Meadow Pointe offers flexible scheduling to help families with their child-care needs for its young attendees.
The center is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering both full- and part-time care, and before- and after-school care, including drop-off and pick-up for four local schools. Payel and Roxanne emphasize that they are here for families. Let them know what your family needs, and they will work to accommodate you.
For school-age children, care is available during days off from school, and Kids ‘R’ Kids currently is enrolling students for summer camps.
While last year’s summer camps could not have field trips, the camps are designed to be fun and engaging, with lots of indoor and outdoor activities, which include a very large outdoor play area, jungle gym, basketball court and bicycle path. The kids do chalk paint, bubbles, parachute, jump rope, and even have water days with balloons and foam sprayers.
The school has a full kitchen serving hot breakfasts and lunches, rotating kid-friendly meals prepared by a professional chef, always carefully served, being mindful of allergies.
Partnerships With Parents
At Kids ‘R’ Kids of Meadow Pointe, it’s a priority for teachers and parents to collaborate with each other for the betterment of the children. “We are very transparent with parents,” says Payel. “We ensure parents are informed about their child.”
Payel says that she and Roxanne and all the teachers communicate with parents about what their kids do each day, what they are learning, and are always happy to answer questions. Conferences also are scheduled.
They also have cameras in the classrooms, so parents can have access to view their children at any time during the day. Private logins and passwords are provided.
The school has several precautions in place to keep kids safe, such as a station where everyone washes their hands as they come in, and temperature checks at the door. Staff and teachers wear masks at all times. And, while the school always has been sanitized and disinfected several times throughout the day, Payel says those procedures have been enhanced.
Kids ‘R’ Kids of Meadow Pointe also does not currently allow any third parties in the building. So, classes such as robotics that used to come in to the school are currently paused. Payel and Roxanne now give tours to prospective families at the end of the day, when all of the children have left the building.
“We appreciate all the extra steps,” says Julie Johnson. “It’s an adjustment to drop the kids at the door rather than going in every day and talking with the teachers, but I’ve been very grateful for them to stay open and all the extra steps they went through to make it a safe environment for everybody.”
She says the care that Payel, Roxanne and the teachers offer is evident, and families at Kids ‘R’ Kids of Meadow Pointe are very happy with their choice.
“I absolutely recommend it,” says Julie. “With my oldest being in VPK, I’m hypersensitive to whether she’s going to be prepared for school and where she’s at compared with other kids. I’m very happy with the education my kids are getting.”
The Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of Meadow Pointe is located at 1540 Mansfield Blvd. at the corner of County Line Rd. For more information, call (813) 994-4525, or visit KidsRKidsMeadowPointe.com.