Accepting Applications for the 2018-19 School Year

FREE Pre-K Counts Slots Now Available!

Apply NOW to be added to our waitlist.

Who We Are

The ELC (The Early Learning Community, Inc.) is a licensed, independent, developmentally appropriate preschool program serving a multiage grouping of three, four, and five year olds in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

What We Believe

The ELC strives to help each child develop a sense of security and belonging, and to nurture his/her self-worth. Our multiage environment encourages cooperative behavior, enhances positive attitudes and experiences toward learning while allowing children to interact with other children of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Treating children as individuals ensures academic success by having each child progress at his or her individual pace.

What We Do

The program utilizes a child-centered, hands-on approach in an enriched early childhood environment. Pennsylvania certified educators work together with parents to provide the best in education for each child using an emergent learning approach to enhance knowledge, intuition and develop the interests of the child.

Inquiry Learning

Inquiry learning is a way to teach how all things relate to each other, in school and in life. It's more fun than traditional learning styles and makes more sense to all types of learners because it is based on the natural ways that people learn and are interested in things. Inquiry learning provides an avenue for formally teaching the inter-relationships of how subjects relate in real-life. Inquiry learning-style education can be enjoyably and meaningfully delivered in more engaging and deeply embedding ways within the already well-established realm of education.


Through play, children actively pose problems, explore solutions and develop understandings of real world concepts of form and function. By comparing and contrasting information gained from each new experience to what they already know, they actively construct their knowledge of the way the world works.


The ELC is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and is in compliance with the accreditation standards and Pennsylvania regulations with the proper teacher/pupil ratio. The ELC is dedicated to ongoing professional development.


The ELC has a core belief that all parents and guardians have dreams and aspirations for their children and want to see their children’s potential realized. In addition, we maintain that all parents have the capacity to support their children's learning as partners in their education.

Pre-K Counts

The ELC has partnered with Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU) to offer limited Pre-K Counts slots for the 2018-19 school year. Pre-K Counts is a pre-kindergarten program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to give quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to qualifying families for three and four year old children.
Apply NOW to be placed on our enrollment waiting list!

Pre-K Counts offers:

  • A curriculum that will help your child grow academically and socially
  • A regular review of your child’s progress, which we will then personalize teaching and learning activities that are best for your child through individualized learning
  • To help you and your child adjust to pre- kindergarten and smoothly move on to kindergarten
  • To help your child pay attention, follow directions, and get along with others
  • Small, diverse, multiage class sizes which is needed for one-on-one time with teachers

Why Choose The ELC for Pre-K Counts?

  • Free pre-kindergarten program for families who meet any of the requirements indicated by the PA Pre-K Counts Program.
  • Monday through Friday, 9:00AM- 2:00PM
  • PA Certified Educators licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, committed to individual learning for each child
  • Developmentally appropriate preschool program serving a multiage community
  • Conveniently located in the Kutztown Area School District Administration Building

Do You Qualify?

Qualifying Risk Factors for Pre-K Counts:

  • Family income level less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For verification, please provide a copy of your W-2.
  • Behavioral Supports: A child who was referred to PA Pre-K Counts from an appropriately credentialed health or mental health practitioner; a child who is receiving mental health treatment.
  • Child Protective Services: A child who is a foster child, a kinship care child, or receiving Children and Youth services.
  • Education Level of Guardian: Does not have high school diploma or GED or post- secondary degree.
  • English Language Learner: A child whose first language is not English and who is in the process of learning English is considered and English Language Learner.
  • Homeless: A child who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (for more detailed criteria, open and download application for Pre-K Counts).
  • Incarcerated Parent: A child for whom one of the child’s parents is currently in prison.
  • Individualized Education Plan (IEP): A child who is currently enrolled in the Preschool Early Intervention program with an active IEP. Verification would be a copy of the IEP or other source of documentation from the parent or Early Intervention provider.
  • Migrant (Non-Immigrant/ Seasonal Student): A migrant child has moved from one school district to another in order to accompany or to join a migrant parent or guardian, who is a migratory worker or who has seasonal employment limited to the region within the preceding 36 months (for more detailed criteria, open and download application for Pre-K Counts).
  • Teen Mother: A child whose mother was under the age of 18 when the child was born.

How To Apply

Download and complete The ELC PA Pre-K Counts Application. Mail or drop off ONLY to
251 Long Lane, Kutztown, PA 19530

  • Completed application
  • Copy of your child's birth certificate
  • Proof of eligibility as listed in PA Pre-K Counts Application


Waitlist Procedures

Applications are accepted on a year round basis with with priority placement given to:

  • Children who have been previously enrolled in our Pre-K Counts program
  • Children of age 4 or 5 years
  • Children with multiple high-risk factors that are all listed on the back of the application (make sure to check off all that apply in addition to household income)

All eligible children who are not given first priority will be placed on our waiting list which is maintained for unexpected openings and for enrollment in the upcomming school year.

QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS? Please contact 610-285-8680 or email us at

Pre-K Counts enrollments provided in partnership with Berks County Intermediate Unit.


Enabling creativity and discovery of art and science is an important part of who we are.

Our Staff

Our team

Lisa Hunter Teacher
Program Director

Lisa Hunter graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1990. She completed a Master of Education and a Master of Public Administration degree in 2008 from Kutztown University. She worked for several years as the Graduate Assistant for the Kutztown University's Early Learning Center.

As a believer in providing an environment where children and families are able to grow and develop together through the joys of learning, it became her personal mission to work together with other educators to develop a high quality early childhood education program.

As a mother of two children who both had an excellent start to their education at Kutztown University's Early Learning Center, she wanted to share the same experience with others.

Our team

Claudia Bayona-Strauss Paraeducator
Spanish Language Immersionist

Claudia Bayona-Strauss (Señora Claudia) graduated as a Preschool Education major in Columbia. She came to the U.S.A. seeking a degree in Special Education with Speech and Language Pathology, graduating in 1989 from Kutztown University. Prior to teaching at The ELC, she worked for Bethlehem school district until 1997 then as a sub-contracted speech therapist until 2008. In 2010, Claudia started working as a speech and bilingual therapist at Children's Therapy Services - an early intervention program.

Claudia came to The ELC to continue nurturing her love of working with young children. Her motivation to support a center for siginificant learning and a developmentally appropriate practice brought her to the Early Learning Community, Inc.

Claudia loves to cook and bake, ride bikes and horses, play tennis, and go to musicals on Broadway with her family.

Our team

Mark Shellhammer Business Services Specialist
Technology Specialist

Mark Shellhammer received an Associate's degree in Computer Technology from Reading Area Community College (RACC). He is presently earning credits towards his Bachelor's degree in Information Technology Management.

Mark came to The ELC to share his knowledge of business and technology in an effort to help the school run more efficiently. He has helped the school to establish a presence on the web, as well as automate numerous administrative tasks. He has always enjoyed working in the school environment and avidly searches for new and innovative ways to improve procedures.

Mark works off-site to support many of the business related functions of The ELC. He also maintains the web site and other IT systems in use by the school.

Frequently Asked Questions

YES! You are welcome to bring your child for a visit with you at any time. Please contact us by phone or email to make an appointment. Phone: 610-285-8680 or email:

We currently offer two part time options: three days/week and two days/week enrollment. Please email for current availability.

Tuition rates for the following enrollment year are determined early in the spring. Please e-mail us at to inquire about current tuition rates.

Pre-K Counts is a pre-kindergarten program established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to give quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to qualifying families for three and four year old children. The ELC will be offering limited Pre-K Counts slots for the 2018-19 school year. For more information and how to apply, please check out our “Pre-K Counts” page in our “About” section.

Absolutely! We welcome family visitors at any time. We recognize that the education of your child is a collaborative effort and your input and participation is valued. We have Parent Jobs including Shared Chef, Mystery Reader, Snack Donation and Flower Power for family members to volunteer.

The Early Learning Community, Inc. recommends behavior management practices that are proactive and preventive as a first measure. Redirection and positive feedback for appropriate behaviors is primary. An enriched environment, on-going observation of individual children, as well as a style of close supervision and parent feedback support these practices.

The Early Learning Community, Inc. follows the Kutztown Area School District's closing and delay schedule. During inclement weather, please listen to one of the radio/TV stations listed below for delays and closings for Kutztown Area School District. If Kutztown Area School District is closed, the Early Learning Community, Inc. will be closed. If Kutztown Area School District has a two-hour delay, the Early Learning Community, Inc. will open at 11:00 AM. If Kutztown Area School District has an early dismissal, the Early Learning Community, Inc. will notify parents if the pick-up time has changed.

Listen for the "Kutztown Area School District" on the following:


Radio stations: WZZO FM 95.1, WLEV FM 100.7, WRFY FM 102.5, WAEB FM 104.1, WIOV FM 105.1, WBYN FM 107.5 WKAP AM 1320, WEEU AM 850, WAEB AM 790, WRAW AM 1340, WEST AM 1400

You can also check on our website, where we will make every effort to immediately post if there has been a change to the program schedule for that day. Always double check the above sources, just in case!

We do not have the ability to care for children who are sick. Parents are urged to keep their child home if s/he shows signs of a cold, illness, or communicable disease. This helps keep other children and staff at school from becoming exposed to your child's illness.

The ELC follows the Department of Education and Department of Human Services codes for staff/child ratio. Classroom enrollment is limited to 20 preschool children with three staff present. General enrollment configuration will be 16 students in a classroom with two teachers and one classroom aide.

Emergent curriculum and small group work based on the children and educator's interests is the basis of ELC's academic curriculum. Using the PA Learning Standards for Pre-K children and building an evolving curriculum based on developmentally appropriate best practice ensures ELC children will have the skills required for the next steps in their education.

Yes! As long as weather permits, ELC children go outside at least once a day to an on-site playground. We consider the outside environment an extension of the classroom. Gross motor activities as well as exposure to the natural environment is an important part of every child's ELC day.

Your child will only be released to the individuals noted on your Release Form unless we have been notified by the Parent/Guardian of an alternate. Photo ID will be required of those individuals that are not familiar to the Staff at pick-up.

All ELC employees have to have a Child Abuse Clearance, a Criminal History Check and an FBI Fingerprint check. Additionally, any PDE mandated security standard required for private and public schools will also be required for all ELC employees, persuant to department regulations. Educational credentials are also verified as appropriate to their position.

It is part of the ELC philosophy to be engaged in ongoing professional development in the field of Early Childhood Education. Partnering with area institutions of higher education to provide a model laboratory/demonstration component is part of providing experience for those individuals interested in pursuing this field. This could include college students working side-by-side with children and staff to develop lessons and activities. In addition we are working with the area school districts to provide experiences for high school students who are interested in shadowing early childhood educators.

Customer Reviews

Past and present families comment about their experiences at the ELC.

As a children's librarian at a public library that has committed itself to the cause of early literacy, I am well steeped in the current research that has demonstrated the importance of an environment rich in play and books in developing the minds of our young children. I know that when my child crawls around on the floor pretending to be a cat, she is strengthening her gross motor skills. When she bends a pope cleaner into whiskers she is honing her fine motor skills. I realize that when she tells me a story about a cat eating a pancake in a coconut tree she is demonstrating her narrative skills. When she sings me a song filled with rhythm and rhyme, I know she has phonemic awareness which will later help her to read. So when looking for a preschool I looked for one where silliness is a prerequisite, where songs are not merely sung in idle, and where books are best friends.
—Ms. Roseanne Perkins, ELC Parent

I suppose what impresses us most about The ELC is how well the teachers get to know each child's individual characteristics, development levels, and personalities. Ms. Hunter is master at her craft, and it is clear that she considers her profession to be more of a lifelong vocation than a job. We are grateful that The ELC has been able to reestablish itself in its new location, and would never consider taking our children anywhere else.
—Dr. Eric F. Johnson, PH.D. and Ms. Cathleen Brown, M.Ed., ELC Parents

The curriculum at The ELC is wonderful. Unlike other preschools, the topics are ever changing with the interests of the kids at The ELC, not a rigid plan. For example, I was reading with my child at bedtime one night and she got really excited when we came to a page about robots and machines- a topic you'd been exploring. She wanted to bring the book to school the next day. I know you gave her the audience she wanted for sharing her book. It is a reassuring thing for a child to have someone genuinely listen.
I feel a part of a community at The ELC. I know that I am welcome to come and stay whenever I like. In my experience, other preschools have been much more closed. Here, I'm invited to come read stories, cook with the kids, help at lunchtime, etc. These tasks make me feel a part of things in a special way. I also love that other members of the community are invited in: artists. musicians, etc., that enrich my child's experiences.

—Dr. Robyn Underwood, ELC Parent

My daughter, who is 3 years old, is a student at the Early Learning Community. As a parent of three children, my child was the last to go to preschool. Her older brothers went to a well-known Montessori school in the area. Though they had a positive experience, neither of them was ever as eager to go to school every day as my child is to come in to school at The ELC. And as a parent of a young child, that means so much - since this is when children develop their attitudes toward school and learning. The staff does an excellent job in creating a fun, creative, interesting and fast-paced environment that children crave. I'm always impressed with the level of organization and preparation that obviously goes into every single day. Plus, the communication is excellent, both the formal and informal. I really feel like I know what's going on with my child, which is a huge plus.
—Ms. Kathryn Townsend, ELC Parent

One of the great many things I love about The ELC is the fact that all lessons and activities are guided by the children's interests. Teachers are always engaged (kids get a lot of one on one learning time as well as group activity time) and ready to take advantage of every teaching opportunity!
Once our daughter and some other children were excavating rocks on the playground and pretending they were dinosaur bones. The teachers helped the children explore this interest further by integrating art (fossil prints), drama (puppet shows about dinosaurs), reading stories about prehistoric life, creative stories dictated and illustrated by the children and even sensory tables filled with fossils, shells and dinos! A typical day at The ELC!
The ELC is a family and we function as one! Parents are involved in their child's learning and participate in classroom activities such as secret story reader, shared chef, and contributing our own special interests and talents. We have personally developed strong friendships with the teachers and other families at The ELC and believe me; it makes a huge difference in your child's learning environment!

—Ms. Julie Setliff, ELC Parent

Daily Schedule


  • Greet families; Sign-in; Change into slippers; Greet friends.
  • During this time families greet each other and teachers. Children sign-in/practice writing their names; hang their belongings; change into slippers; and socialize with friends.


  • Discuss children's news; Celebrations; Set the agenda; Sing songs; Read stories; Plan projects together.
  • Children are called to morning meeting. The whole group will discuss children's news and share the classroom events for the day. The group will sing songs, do story plays, read stories, and plan projects together. The teachers will discuss the day's centers and explain any new procedures.


  • Small group meetings facilitated by teacher.
  • Introduce a skill or concept; Apply a concept or skill; Explore a material; Centers opened; Planned learning experiences; Self-served snacks.


  • Clean-up and get ready to go outside or play in multi-purpose room.


  • Indoor/Outdoor Gross Motor Activities.
  • Students will utilize the playground for movement, large-motor activities, physical development, outdoor experiences and socialization, or have recess in the multi-purpose room during inclement weather.


  • Go inside, remove shoes, Lunch, Socialization, and Play.


  • Quiet, Individualized Play; Books; Puzzles.


  • Mid-day Meeting for the Whole Group.
  • Music, Movement and Spanish Lessons; Reflect on morning projects; Teachers facilitate question and answer session; Modeling of a teaching point; Review of planned learning experiences.


  • Project Time: Small group meetings facilitated by teacher.
  • Continue exploring a concept or skill; Apply a concept or skill; Explore a material; Centers opened; Planned learning experiences or Indoor/Outdoor Gross Motor Activities.


  • Indoor/Outdoor Gross-Motor Activities.
  • Students will utilize the playground for movement, large-motor activities, physical development, outdoor experiences and socialization or have recess in the multi-purpose room, during inclement weather.


  • Clean-up and get ready for reflection meeting, Prepare to Go Home.
  • Reflection Meeting on Rug or Outside for Whole Group; Teachers and students will review the day's experiences and activities; Reflect on connections made throughout the day; Review Spanish vocabulary; Sing a culminating song; Listen to a Mystery Story Reader when scheduled. Students practice putting their shoes and coats on, and they gather their belongings.


  • Dismissal to Parents/Guardians.
  • Parents who arrive early to the playground may collect children's belongings and take them to the playground if children want to continue to play outside.

2017-2018 School Year

Free Pre-K Counts slots available for qualifying families.

The ELC operates between late August and mid-June. Program options may be customized at the discretion of school administration based on enrollment availability. Customizations are subject to a custom fee schedule and pricing will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for more details.

Full Week
Full Day


per 4 weeks
View Details


  • Monday - Friday
  • 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • $4.75 per hour

Full Day


per 4 weeks
View Details


  • Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • $6.50 per hour

Full Day


per 4 weeks
View Details


  • Tuesday and Thursday
  • 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • $7.25 per hour

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Contact Us

  • Additional info

    If you have any questions, please call or email us. We'll be glad to get in touch with you as soon as possible.

  • Our Location

    251 Long Lane Road
    Kutztown, PA 19530-9693
     Google Map

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  • Email Us

  • Office Hours

    • Mo - Fr: 8:00 am to 3:00 pm*
    • *Hours effective during school year. Summer office hours will vary.