• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Play and Learn to close

Longtime preschool center to cease at the end of May

SOLON– Play and Learn Preschool and Daycare has provided a quintessentially Solon early childhood experience for generations of families.
But not for much longer.
In a letter to families, Director Lisa Kaefring announced the center will be closing at the end of May.
Kaefring has been director since 2008, succeeding her mother Ellen, who started Solon’s first preschool and daycare center 50 years ago.
“She was really amazing,” Kaefring said of her mother, currently a resident of Solon Retirement Village. “I’ve always been very proud of the fact that it’s a non-traditional center, so it’s not institutional, which really appeals to a lot of people.”
It has always been a family business, she explained, with her father Herman filling the role of maintenance man and her mother handling the paperwork.
When Herman passed away in 2014, Kaefring took over the upkeep, and when Ellen retired, Kaefring took that workload on as well.
“Once I started doing it, I was doing three people’s jobs,” she explained.
She tried to do it all well, but the stress eventually took its toll physically and mentally.
Kaefring, who turns 60 this year, had a “God moment” that helped her decide.
She’d been praying a lot about what to do, and had taken her mother for an appointment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
It turned into a long wait and Kaefring, frustrated, had to call the supervisor serving in her absence at Play and Learn and ask the worker to stay late.
“And I thought, you know, this is just getting really old,” she recalled. “I want to be able to help Mom out and not be all stressed about having someone there beyond their normal hours.”
She talked to her staff and composed a letter to the families of the 38 children served by the center saying it was time for her to step back.
Her mother was supportive of the decision.
“There’s no perfect time,” Kaefring said. “You make a decision and then you go with it.”
Kaefring has worked at Play and Learn pretty much all her life, although she also served as a half-time music teacher for the Solon school district.
She earned her master’s degree in music education from the University of Iowa and later added an early childhood endorsement from Northwestern College at Orange City.
The unified endorsement came after the Solon district’s addition of a preschool program almost a decade ago.
At the time, Play and Learn wasn’t qualified to participate because Ellen had an early childhood degree but no teaching certificate, while Kaefring had a music degree.
Kaefring taught on a temporary license until she could obtain the unified endorsement allowing her to work with special needs children.
Play and Learn started as a preschool playgroup Ellen started with Ruby Jedlicka, Pat Fiala and others, she said. Ellen, owner of a degree in early childhood development from the University of Iowa, was approached by Bev Worrell, who did in-home daycare, and the service was added to the preschool.
The Stout home at 230 W. Main St. became an unorthodox educational campus where children played games and worked on craft projects among antique armoires and heirloom furniture for decades.
Kaefring credited her mother for the success of the business.
She was always very good with parents and people were comfortable in her presence, Kaefring said.
Ellen was also a founding member of the Solon Public Library, she noted, and still performs some bookkeeping for the business.
“She still wants to know about the business and what’s going on,” Kaefring reported. “She’s doing great.”
Kaefring isn’t sure what will become of the property.
The facility was grandfathered in as far as some requirements, and it’s her understanding the building could not be sold for continued use as a daycare.
She and her siblings will put their heads together and come up with ideas.
She doesn’t have a personal plan for her future. For now, she’ll hang out and see what life brings.
Kaefring will continue to care for her three grandchildren, who were already attending Play and Learn. Being supportive of her children and grandchildren is important to her.
“Taking care of my grandchildren is one of the things I love,” she noted.
With the addition of Solon Learning Academy and Spartan Early Childhood Center, she’s confident the Play and Learn families can obtain needed care after the closure.
Most of the families have back-ups or good support systems, she noted.
Kaefring thanked Solon for the opportunity to be a part of so many kids’ lives.
“It’s been amazing the support the community has given us,” she said.