Early education efforts make big impact in Alexandria

April Larson, the Early Education Center coordinator, presented information to Alexandria School Board members at their regular meeting Monday, May 15.

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ALEXANDRIA — Each year, there about 350 early childhood screenings performed through the Alexandria Public Schools Community Education Early Education program.

Additionally, there are about 200 students – ages 3, 4 and 5 – who attend the Early Education school readiness program. There are 12 different class types to suit the needs of families and children, according to April Larson, the Early Education Center coordinator who presented information to Alexandria School Board members at their regular meeting Monday, May 15.

Larson also shared that through Early Childhood Family Education, which is a parent education program, there are four, 10-week long sessions in the fall, winter, spring and summer. There are between 150 and 200 families who attend per session. The sessions are for infants, toddlers, students ages 2 to 5, and also for parents only.

This past year, the Early Childhood program received an Intergenerational Grant that allowed the school to bring students to visit eight independent living/nursing home/memory care facilities in the area.

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Grand Arbor residents read books to Alexandria Early Childhood Education students as part of an Intergenerational Grant that allowed the school to bring students to visit eight independent living/nursing home/memory care facilities in the area.
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Students ages 3 to 5 went on 54 visits, said Larson, who noted that the grant was an “absolutely blessing.” She said it helped to build relationships across generations and was also an amazing school-community partnership.


Laura Kremer from Knute Nelson said, “When we were contacted, we were just thrilled. “This is the first big program we’ve been able to do since loosening up (COVID-19) protocols.”

She said that each visit seemed to get “more and more magical” as the relationships between the students and their “grand buddies” were formed.

Kremer read a letter from a resident at Grand Arbor about how much she enjoys seeing the children and she thanked school leaders for the opportunity.

Larson also shared about an unexpected outcome of the visits, which was how the comfort level between the students and the senior citizens they visited grew with each visit. She said it provided an “awesome opportunity” to talk about differences in people who may have to use a wheelchair, walker or cane or differences with residents who were in memory care units.

In the beginning, some of those things could be scary for students, but by the end, their comfort level grew.

“It’s been such a blessing in so many ways,” she said.

Shenanigans update

Julie Jendro, Shenanigans Indoor Playground coordinator, also provided an update to the school board.

The playground area includes more than just playground equipment. There is now laser tag, which is not only for children, but can be used by adults and is a great team-building event, she said.


Jendro also touched on the party rental aspect. At Shenanigans, guests can have basic, themed or private parties that range in cost from $121 to $247 and last an hour and a half to two hours. She said they have hosted birthday parties, baby showers and even baptisms.

For fiscal year 2022, there were 168 rentals. Fiscal year 2023 to date has had 248 rentals so far, she said.

Another statistic provided by Jendro was for total attendance. From February through June of 2019, total attendance was 5,736. Then for fiscal year 2020, the attendance was at 8,068. Fiscal year 2021 was at 555 (this was because of the COVID-19 pandemic). For fiscal year 2022, the attendance was at 13,297. And so far, between July 2022 and April 2023, the attendance was at 16,496.

Jendro talked about how she has teamed up with businesses to provide “free community play” days. Eight businesses have already hosted or will be hosting free events, including the following:

  • May 25: Geneva Capital
  • June 9: United States Axe
  • July 28: Brenton Engineering
  • Leighton Broadcasting will also be hosting, but a date has not been set.
  • Winning Edge Graphics: 177 attended
  • Bethany on the Lake: 277 attended
  • Alex Movers: 89 attended
  • Sanford Health of Alexandria and Parkers Prairie: 128 attended

Jendro is also now in charge of the Outdoor Gear Library rental.
“We have lots of great things people can rent,” she said.

Items include yard games like a life-sized Connect 4 game, giant Jenga, ladder golf, bean bag toss and more. In the winter, people can rent snowshoes, fat tire bikes, snow tubes and more. For the spring and summer, they have kayaks, an Aqua Mat, bikes, camping equipment and more.

For more information on rental availability, visit

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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