For over 40 years, the Early Learning Center has been a licensed, half-day preschool program designed to education the whole child.
First Christian Church Early Learning Center Preschool was started in May of 1975, with school beginning in September of 1975. The program moved to First Christian Church from Richland United Methodist Church Preschool which opened originally in 1972. A Spring Open House was held at FCC in May 1975, to allow enrolled parents and children to see the new facility. A Preschool Committee was named, as a sub-committee of the Education Committee, to be responsible for assisting the director in decision making regarding policies and procedures. The first Early Learning Center committee was headed by Donna Heaton who served as the first chairperson and would serve as chairperson in future years.
Many changes have occurred since the school’s inception in 1975. In September of 1981, an “extended day” lengthened the day to 1:45 at the request of the parents. In January of 1982, the Mother’s Day Out program was added at the request of the evangelism committee and community parents, immediately serving 32 children ages 5 months to 2 1/2 years. Additionally, the 3-day class for 3 year-olds was added in September 1984, in response to parental request. In 1995, the ELC added Bible classes to its curriculum. The ELC has ministered to many children and their families through the Bible program. In 1999, a scholarship fund was instituted as a memorial to Donna Heaton in appreciation for all she contributed to the ELC. The scholarship has assisted several families with various hardships, whose children would have needed to drop out of the ELC if the scholarship had not been available. These families, as well as the ELC staff, are very grateful for this scholarship program and all it has meant in the lives of young children. A merge in 2008 between First Christian Church and Western Heights prompted a name change after many years. The United Disciples Christian Church was born and presides over the ELC ministry.
As of 2015, the ELC has been in operation for 40 years. The enrollment has fluctuated between 60 and 100 children over the years. The staff has also fluctuated beginning with 5 teachers and a director to a high of 12 teachers and a director. Presently, there are approximately 60 children in attendance with 7 teachers, a music and Bible teacher, office assistant, and director.
After being one of the first Richardson preschools to acquire NAEYC Accreditation (the National Association for the Education of Young Children), the school board decided to change accrediting agencies in 2007. As of April 2008, the ELC qualified for accreditation by the National Accreditation Commission (sponsored by the National Association of Child Care Professionals). The school strives to maintain the highest standards of child education.