By LOIS KINDLE
Carrie Elwell and her husband, Kevin, love children. They’ve got two of their own and have served thousands of others since opening the doors of Kids ’R’ Kids Learning Academy of Southshore in August 2007.
And as if that weren’t enough, the couple recently opened another center, this time in Waterset, where they’ll undoubtedly serve thousands more in the years to come.
It had been in the works since 2015, when the Elwells purchased land in Waterset from Newland Communities.
“For years, we had people on our waiting list (at Kids ’R’ Kids Southshore), so we began looking for another site,” Elwell said. “We wanted to continue serving Southshore, stay in the area where we had established solid relationships and be close to where we already were.”
The two learning academies are a $6 million investment in the community and its children, Elwell said.
“We offer the same great programming, curriculum-based, age-appropriate classrooms, a professional teaching staff and oversized playgrounds at both,” Elwell said. “We’re much more than a babysitter for all our children. So much brain development occurs between birth and age 5. We know it’s our job to not squander those years.”
Thus far, 110 children are enrolled at Kids ’R’ Kids Academy of Waterset. Its capacity is 300.
Open 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, the facility offers childcare, preschool, VPK or after-school care for children ages six weeks to 12.
Transportation is provided from Doby and Apollo Beach elementary schools and Southshore Charter Academy for after-school students.
Some of its features include a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) lab with a smart board, computers and 3-D printer; an on-site, commercial kitchen and kids’ cafe, security code access; video cameras throughout; and secure Internet viewing via Watch Me Grow.
“It’s an especially nice feature for families with deployed military,” Elwell said. “Parents can check in at any time to see what their child is doing.”
Kids ’R’ Kids also offers summer camps, field trips and all kinds of fun, educational activities for its students. It also provides opportunities for children to serve their community.
“We’re big on teaching social responsibility,” Elwell said. “It’s part of the character development piece of our curriculum.”
Students at Kids ’R’ Kids Southshore, for example, participate in the annual St. Jude Trike-A-Thon and have raised an average of $1,500 per year for the past 10 years.
Many also volunteer for an annual cleanup at My Warrior’s Place on Veteran’s Day. And a couple of weeks ago, children collected fabric for dog beds for a local Girl Scout troop.
“I love it for so many reasons,” said Amber Gangis, a first-grade teacher at Doby Elementary and mother of two. Her children, ages 2 and 4, were first enrolled at Kids ’R’ Kids Southshore and recently transferred to Kids ’R’ Kids Waterset.
“It’s super clean and has a pleasant staff. I (use) the camera monitors to check on my children throughout the day and love how the staff keeps me informed about them, good or bad,” she said. “The owners, Carrie and Kevin, are always there, always involved, and my kids have loved every teacher they’ve had. I recommend either location to anyone and everyone.”
Kids ’R’ Kids is accredited by AdvancED, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization of educational professionals and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.
Elwell said she is currently looking for teachers and teacher aides and additional students for the Waterset location.
For additional information, stop by 6406 Covington Garden Drive, Apollo Beach, visit www.kidsrkidswaterset.com or call 813-641-0101. Tours are available, upon request.