RITTMAN — Meghan Barnes loved teaching second grade at Rittman Elementary School, but when conversations about a new early learning center began, she thought, “This is right in my wheelhouse.”
Barnes, who is entering her ninth year as an educator at Rittman Exempted Village Schools, is “really, really excited” to be the preschool teacher at the new Rittman Early Learning Center this fall. The center, which will be located next to Rittman Elementary School, will provide learning and care for students ages 3 to 5. This year, the preschool will be housed in Heritage Hall, the former Rittman High School building, while construction takes place.
Despite some uncertainty surrounding the start of a new program during the COVID-19 pandemic and delays in breaking ground on the new building, Barnes and administrators at the district are eager to provide a facility for young learners that also can serve as a recreation and community center for families and organizations in the area.
The district has wanted an early learning center for a long time, Rittman Elementary Principal Shawna Devoe said. While staff collaborated with other local preschool programs and the Head Start program, the district didn’t have its own preschool.
“One of the things we’ve seen in the past few years working with the community preschools is we still do have a population of kids who are not getting any early learning prior to coming to kindergarten,” she said, adding the issue is sometimes related to cost or lack of transportation. “They come in not exposed to some typical things that you