There are 15 classrooms at Bright Horizons Interbay for infants up to kindergarten prep.
There are 15 classrooms at Bright Horizons Interbay for infants up to kindergarten prep.

Bright Horizons has already surpassed its enrollment goal ahead of its spring opening of a new education center in Interbay.

“We have been inundated with families that are interested,” said center director Lara Canada. “We are over our goal to open so far.”

The early education and preschool facility was constructed in a growing commercial district off West Armory Way, and faculty moved in on Jan. 2. It’s the latest location for Bright Horizons, with two more on the way.

Canada said an application for state licensing was submitted this week for 180 children. There are 15 classrooms at the Interbay center, 1570 W. Armory Way, with four classes each set up for infants and toddlers.

Bright Horizons incorporates hands-on learning aspects of the Montessori Method in its classrooms, and has its own Signature Practices that progress from infants to kindergarten prep (pre-K). Signature Practices include reading and using sign language with infants, fostering receptive and expressive language for toddlers, and daily re-reading and writing for preschool and kindergarten prep classrooms.

When Canada began teaching in 1987, she said, teachers chose the curriculum, but Bright Horizons allows students to create their own lessons based on what’s interesting to them at any given time.

“Emergent curriculum is what forms the child, the whole identity of our program,” said Bright Horizons Interbay assistant director Adena Arceneaux

While Canada was acting as assistant director at Bright Horizons in West Seattle, children would walk by a fire station being torn down to make way for its replacement. Canada said teachers seized on the children’s interest to create lessons focused on construction and fire stations.

“The children are going to build the curriculum,” Arceneaux said. “I just have to be present.”

Bright Horizons teachers will adjust their curriculum based on the progress of individual students, which is tracked and shared with parents regularly, said education coordinator Lexie Franzen. There are two teachers per classroom.

“For us, we literally educate year round,” Canada said. “Our afternoons are not anymore lax. They’re still structured.”

Canada stressed Bright Horizons is about early education and not being a daycare.

There is no screen time at Bright Horizons, save for educational media in classrooms.

Franzen is excited about the center’s art and STEM lab, which she used to run at the Bright Horizons in Mercer Island. STEM experiments start with toddlers, and the curriculum has grown in the last five years, Franzen said.

“Now, it’s an expectation, where it wasn’t before,” she said of STEM in early education.

Bright Horizons Interbay has five playgrounds designed for toddlers to kindergarten prep, as well as a Movement Matters space for inside play and learning. There will also be gardening, Canada said, and she’s applied for a space at the Interbay P-Patch.

“There’s a nice waiting list,” she said.

Space is still available at Bright Horizons, and about half of the students enrolled so far are from Magnolia, Canada said.

The number of classrooms to open first this spring will depend on staffing, Canada said. Interviews are ongoing.

Bright Horizons looks at education and experience in teachers, she said, but in 2018 it also began paying for faculty to receive degrees in early childhood education.

“We have four different schools we can choose from,” Canada said.

Bright Horizons Interbay will have around 50 employees once fully staffed.