By Christina Autry
Ragsdill Schools has seen generations of Spring Branch children pass through its doors, learn in its classrooms, and play on its inviting playground. It recognizes its former students in the faces of the parents who bring their own children to Ragsdill, gifting their sons and daughters the same joyful childhood experience amidst a rapidly changing neighborhood.
Ted and Glenda Gard have owned Ragsdill since 1983, about twenty years after the school was founded by Jack Ragsdill. “We were both working in corporate America, and wanted to do something different, something together. We both loved working with kids,” says Glenda. The couple purchased the school from its previous owner, and the rest is history.
Now, during the school year, Ragsdill offers services to meet the needs of children from ages 18 months to 10 years old. Its programs consist of childcare, a full-day Pre-K program, before and after school care, as well as ballet and gymnastics. Over the summer, Ragsdill teaches swim lessons in their two indoor pools, and runs summer camps.
Students are guided through developmentally appropriate schedules each day. “Everybody is on a schedule,” says Glenda. “We have breakfast and lunch, curriculum time, teacher-directed time, centers, and outdoor activities,” she explains.
“We are a centers-based program,” says Glenda. “We believe that children learn best through play. Everything we teach, from math, to science, to reading is very hands-on.” Centers allow students to build specific academic skills both independently and with other students, which also requires them to practice fundamental interpersonal skills such as perseverance, creativity, and emotional regulation.
Ragsdill’s half-acre playground and sports court are outdoor features that children and families love. Children participate in daily structured and unstructured outdoor activities, with some children gravitating toward the bikes and trikes, and others toward the climbing equipment.
While Ragsdill’s enrollment is typically just under 100 students with about 10 students per class, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily decreased those numbers. As a childcare center, Ragsdill has been able to stay open to provide care for children of workers deemed essential by the government.
“It has really affected our business,” says Glenda. “A lot of our families are not essential workers, and they are working from home to protect their families. Unfortunately, some of our families have lost their jobs.”
With the critical role that Ragsdill is playing to assist essential workers, the Gards are ensuring that the childcare center follows all CDC guidelines to keep students and staff safe. “No one is allowed inside the building except the children, who are taught to wash their hands properly when they first arrive,” says Glenda. “We check their temperatures when they first come in, and throughout the day. Our staff has our own protocols, which have kept us safe and the facility sanitized.”
When Governor Greg Abbott initiated the Frontline Childcare website at the beginning of April, Ragsdill was included on the list of childcare providers. This website was developed as a resource for essential workers to locate daycares that are still functioning during the pandemic. Upon application and approval, parents can also receive financial assistance to help them pay for childcare through this site.
Despite the current challenges, Ragsdill remains a place where families “immediately feel a safe, nurturing, and loving environment for their kids,” as Glenda says she has heard many times from those new to Ragsdill.
The Gards have seen a good deal of change in the Spring Branch area over the past 37 years, with “new construction, new and improved roads and medians, which have improved access in and out of Spring Branch, and really increased the quality of life for people here.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the passion that the Gards have for working with children and helping local families. “It’s having a connection with the families, and making an impact on how children learn and develop,” says Glenda. “It’s very gratifying. We are a family here at Ragsdill.”