Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy celebrates new playground

Published 11:30 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

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WEST POINT — The Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy (CELA) has a new playground. It’s located inside a fenced-in area just behind the school. It officially opened following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday morning. The ceremony was a way of thanking the Callaway Foundation for providing the funding needed to make the playground a reality. Callaway Foundation President Tripp Penn was there to cut the ribbon and to watch the three and four-year-old CELA children having fun on new rides such a triple slide, a tire swing, a bouncy duck and a bouncy turtle. There’s also a big bench to rest on. The City of West Point fenced in the site, built a new sidewalk from the school to the playground and spread wood chips on the ground to soften the walk inside the playground.

“We thank all of you for being here today, especially the Callaway Foundation,” said CELA Board Member Sandra Glover. “We have been able to expand our services due to their wonderful help. We now have a fabulous playground, and our children really love it. We want them to acquire a lifelong love of learning early in life and to grow up to be teachers, police officers and scientists who take trips to the moon. When we can get children who are very young, we can help them develop a passion for learning that can last for a lifetime.”

The children’s teacher, Heather Hoats, said they couldn’t wait to get out to the playground and have fun.

“They wanted to be out here when it was under construction,” she said.

From a distance, the new playground looks the part of a child-friendly place. Each stop on the playground is brightly colored and easy for a young child to slide, ride or bounce on.

Most of the CELA children live in West Point and will be prepared to start pre-K or kindergarten at West Point Elementary School. Students who live outside West Point will likely attend school at Long Cane or Hollis Hand in LaGrange.

The Callaway Foundation, Inc. supports nonprofit organizations that benefit projects and people of LaGrange and Troup County. CELA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that will accept children from throughout the Chattahoochee Valley region. They must be three or four years old by Sept. 1, 2022. Tuition is $300 per month for Monday through Friday and classes are from 8 a.m. until noon. It’s $200 a month for classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Federal guidelines are applied when considering families applying for scholarships.

CELA’a director Anne O’Brien is a retired public school educator, having served at Ethel Kight Elementary and Gardner Newman Middle School. She is pleased with CELA’s growth in its first three years. It started out in the smaller building on the left at the West Point Tech Center off O.G. Skinner Drive. After that first year, CELA moved into the larger building on the right. The move more than doubled the space for classroom learning. The only problem with that was the original site had a playground outside along with an indoor gym. That meant going back to the original building for play time. Also, the playground equipment is designed for older children.

With the new playground, the kids can go right from their classroom to a play area that’s perfect for three and four-year-olds.

The West Point CARES program is taking place in that first building. CARES stands for Creative, Academic, Recreational and Enrichment Services and serves children in the K-5 through 8th grade levels. With parental permission, CELA children can take CARES classes from 2 to 6 p.m. CARES is under the direction of Thelma Hodo. Each day, the students eat a healthy snack, receive help with homework, get physical exercise and participate in fun enrichment activities.

CELA has one classroom for three and four-year-olds. Point University students and Legacy Link trainees work with lead teacher Heather Hoats as classroom assistants. The daily schedule runs from 9 a.m. until noon, and the school uses the Georgia Early Learning & Development Standards (GELDS). The environment supports best practices to foster children’s development through a play-based approach. The week includes music, art, math-based manipulatives, technology, discovery/science, blocks, dramatic play, stories, small-group language activities and large motor activities in the gym and on the new playground.

Guests are invited to the classroom to share their educational experiences with the children.

The Point University Education Department makes use of the CELA classroom as a setting for observation and research in the field of early childhood education.

“Our goal is to create an environment that maximizes each child’s potential to learn and grow,” O’Brien said. “They will be well prepared to enter kindergarten next year.”

CELA may be contacted at or by dialing (706) 445-2770.