New day care close to approval in Naperville
Selvei Rajkumar has had a passion for education since she wrote a letter to Mother Teresa as a child in India.
The response she got from the Catholic nun now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta told she and her schoolyard friends, "We can change the world, too, if we dedicate ourselves to educating children," she said.
Although Rajkumar grew up to get a degree in engineering and work as a management consultant, not as a teacher, she got involved in education in 2013. That's when she and her husband, Kumar, opened a KLA Schools day care in Plainfield.
As a Naperville resident for more than 20 years, Rajkumar said she always wanted to establish a school in Naperville, where she has raised her son. And on Tuesday, she got one step closer to that goal.
The Naperville City Council unanimously approved several measures related to the Rajkumars' request to annex a 1.2-acre unincorporated site at 5S241 and 5S255 Tuthill Road and use it to build a 12,500-square-foot day care center for children ages six weeks to 12 years.
Because of a technical difficulty related to the city's requirement to provide public notice, the council was not able to hold a public hearing about an annexation agreement for the sites or to approve the annexation deal itself. City Attorney Mike DiSanto said those actions are set to take place at the council's next meeting Feb. 5.
Approval of the annexation agreement would grant final permission for the day care's plans to proceed, and Mayor Steve Chirico said that likely will be an easy step, too, for the facility that gained all council members' support.
The facility will employ about 30 teachers once it has a full population of up to 170 students, Rajkumar said. Teachers will work with students in 10 classrooms, a STEM room for science, technology, engineering and math activities and a large "grand piazza" at the center of the space for all-school assemblies.
Rajkumar said the school's philosophy is project-based, in which teachers act as facilitators and guide classwork based on student interests, instead of arbitrary themes. She said this approach helps kids develop curiosity and intellect.
"I have personal experience with how a robust early childhood program can transform a student's life through my son," now a high school sophomore, Rajkumar said.
Plainfield parent Katie Summers said her 2-year-old son has shown "tremendous growth" in his empathy, leadership and interactions with his siblings since beginning to attend KLA Schools in Plainfield last August.
"KLA is more than just a school, it's a family," Summers said, "and they really install wonderful morals in the children they work with."
Pending approval of the annexation agreement next month, the school will be built with 50 on-site parking spaces south of Ogden Avenue and east of Naper Boulevard.