Bridging the gap

Preschool teachers working with children at a desk.
Anne Ford and Miranda Nathan are the owners of the Learning Bridge, an extended-day kindergarten enrichment program.

You work full time, but your child goes to half-day kindergarten. What’s a parent to do?

The solution might lie in The Learning Bridge, 2090 Greentree Road, a new extended-day kindergarten enrichment program designed to supplement Mt. Lebanon School District’s half-day kindergarten program.

The concept is simple: provide instruction, playtime and transportation to fill up the rest of a kindergartner’s day.

The program grew out of an idea developed by two Mt. Lebanon moms with children entering kindergarten shortly after the COVID quarantine began in 2020.

Anne Ford, Old Hickory Road, is the owner and director of The Learning Bridge. She partnered with Miranda Nathan, Iroquois Drive, an experienced childcare professional who worked with Ford at another early childhood care center, to bring their idea to the community.

“We were both working and we both could see the value in having a center that would operate the half day your kid wasn’t in half-day kindergarten in Mt. Lebanon and included in that would be transportation,” Nathan said.

Ford then reached out to Jillian Glass, of Scott, another former co-worker and later her son’s nanny, to do the initial legwork required to get The Learning Bridge up and running and certified with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Once The Learning Bridge became fully operational, Ford hired April Jourdan, who worked in the neighboring Bethel Park School District, and prior to that, at Mt. Lebanon Montessori. “When I heard about the school, I just thought this was so exciting and it was my chance to get back to working with younger kids again, so I jumped at the chance to be involved,” she said.

Ford is a certified teacher with more than 12 years of early childhood education experience, including as a kindergarten and pre-kindergarten teacher in both public and private school systems. During COVID, she went back to teaching in the Mt. Lebanon School District as a substitute teacher and support staff, generally kindergarten through second grade.

“With a short day and COVID, the social piece was missing, and I was inspired to do this again,” she said.

“So, we got the band back together, as it were,” said Nathan.

In addition to low student-to-teacher ratios, The Learning Bridge also offers rolling enrollment while there’s availability.  The kindergarten service offers transportation to and from the center. Right now, there’s a kindergarten readiness program for ages 4 through 6, minus the transportation provided by the kindergarten program.

Students get art, music, and a lot of the playtime that doesn’t fit into a normal 2¾-hour kindergarten day.

“They can come here and relax, socialize and decompress from the school day. We’re seeing really wonderful things,” Nathan said.

Photos by Elizabeth Hruby McCabe