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Cinnaminson Nursery School Owner Strives to Keep Her Charges Safe

Audrey Kearns, of Cinnamon Sticks Learning Center, says the most important job in the world is being responsible for children.

 

Audrey Kearns will stop working and watch if a strange car pulls into the driveway of the school she owns and runs on Route 130 North. And pedestrians walking the highway just outside of the perimeter of the school better keep moving. 

Surveillance of the property is monitored with cameras, all doors are kept locked, and only authorized adults can pick up a child, checked against a consent list that’s strictly monitored, with parents called if there’s doubt about a pick up.

In light of the Sandy Hook shootings last December, and the removal of a young girl from a public school in Philadelphia in early January, Kearns said she and her staff must be ever vigilant to unfamiliar people near her school.

“It’s part of the criteria that my staff has embedded in them,” said Kearns, when asked about the ongoing debate about how to keep our schools safe. “When you are responsible for children, it’s the most important job in the world.”

For 12 years, Kearns, who grew up in Cinnaminson and majored in biology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, had an in-home childcare service for kids from infancy into kindergarten, while her four children were growing up. 

From a retailer where satin and lace hung, to a school inhabited by dolls and trucks, the present site of Cinnamon Sticks used to be Silverman Modern Bridals. 

In 1999, she acquired the bridal salon building for $250,000. The property had good parking availability and a large yard for kids to romp, but the old building didn't meet local and state requirements for a school. So it was demolished.

“We built this place from the ground up...it took us four years,” said Kearns, but it was worth every penny. She opened on Sept. 2, 2003, with five children.

In three months, she had a roster of 60. Today, her enrollment is at 92, (a nearly full school) with 30 school-aged kids attending the early morning and late afternoon programs. A Cinnaminson bus transports the children back and forth to the public school.

Part of her success, Kearns thinks, is that she and her staff try their best “to cater to whatever parents need.” It’s a family environment, and parents trust her.

“Each classroom has a daily agenda,” said Kearns, of the six rooms with tables, cubbies and individual bathrooms with pint-sized toilets. Bright white walls are painted with forest murals, and bold colors adorn the rooms. Two playgrounds—one for tots, the other for bigger kids—are filled with riding toys, balls and wagons.

Her team is made up of 18 employees, all women, many who’ve been with her since the school’s opening. Three are certified teachers, a few are part time students, and all are certified in CPR.

On this winter afternoon, a four-year-old girl with brown hair and ice-blue eyes hung onto Kearns’ hip, while the director gave a visitor a tour, past the classrooms, into the industrial kitchen, over to the office and out to the playground. 

Some kids were scribbling on art pads, a few others were listening to music, and two boys were discussing the practicalities of a superhero flying.

“What were you writing today?" Kearns asked her little charge, still glued to her hip. "Are you going to show me?"

Turning to her visitor, Kearns said, "When you're with children, just walking through the school like this…they are learning something.”

Send business story ideas to christina.paciolla@patch.com. And sign up for our free newsletter here to get stories like this sent to your inbox.

FbS February 11, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Nice work, Audrey. We have only heard great things about Cinnamon sticks.
Jennie Aydelotte February 11, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Audrey and CinnamonSticks are a life saver. We would not know what to do without her. She's always open, even on snow days and scheduled days off for the school system. She's just great! My daughter, almost 8, has been there for about 7 years and she loves it. It definitely does have a family feel and I have always trusted them, never having any doubts.
CinnaminsonHarbourResident February 11, 2013 at 06:58 PM
I did not have a good experience with Cinnaminson Sticks.
Dawn Baker February 11, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Love Audrey!!! Both my girls attended cinnamon sticks and did a wonderful job! ( miss our chats) lol
Peggy Schweikert-Kavalkovich February 11, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Christina, I am happy you wrote this story. i have been toying with the idea of scrapping my Biology degree and teaching HS for the little guys. I feel like I am missing out on so much with Eddie. Thanks for the article. It helps that another did the same thing and made it work!
Jenn February 11, 2013 at 07:46 PM
REALLY? Aren't we just a little paranoid? Even with the recent shootings, schools are STILL the SAFEST place for our children ANYWHERE! Statistically, there is no safer place for our children. Children at home are still many more times more likely to get injured or die than at a school. The transportation to our schools is most dangerous still. Various studies state that your child is nearly 20,000 times more likely to die while be driven to school than at school. Lets keep it in perspective folks and not let the current liberal controlled media scare us to death into being overprotective of our children. Honestly, if i was the owner of Cinnamin Sticks, i would MOSTLY be concerned about a child getting out and running across Rt. 130 in traffic. Keep it real folks. Lets not let paranoia rule our lives.
Carol S. February 11, 2013 at 09:35 PM
I don't think you can be too careful with children. I also don't think it's paranoid when you are in charge of other people's children to take every precaution to assure their safety from strangers. Nice job Audrey/Cinnamon Sticks Learning Center! :)
Ric February 11, 2013 at 11:35 PM
REALLY - Jenn, to use your words: folks let’s keep it in perspective and not let the current conservative controlled media scare us to continuing this slaughter of children by assault weapons. Jenn, just exactly, how many more children have to die, before you say, “we need less guns not more”? Why do the Newtown parents oppose you and call for more gun control?
Matt Ridgway February 12, 2013 at 01:56 AM
We have 2 sons that attend Cinnamonstix. Audrey and her staff look after my boys as if they were there own. Thanks Audrey.
Phil February 12, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Did you actually read the article Jenn? She talks about the picking up of children also and, really, the security of that is much more on the minds of daycare workers then the child dying through some event at the school. While we don't send our kids to Cinnamon Sticks, our daycare put in better, coded locks on their doors post-Sandy Hook as that event jarred those in charge of our children in to looking to see if what was in place was adequate or useful in their protection.
Jean Gilmore February 12, 2013 at 07:29 PM
We have 2 daughters and we were at Cinnamon Sticks for 7 years! Audrey and her staff are awesome! They provided a safe haven for my girls while we were at work everyday and I never had to worry! They are very reliable and I would highly recommend them to others! Not one bad thing to say!!! - The Gilmore Family
Kim Cichonski February 13, 2013 at 04:45 PM
My daughters currently attend Cinnamin Sticks & we are very happy with the services Audrey and her staff provide. I have never seen a director/owner so involved with the day to day process. Kudos to the entire staff
Lisa May 01, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I agree with u both!

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