Local preschool bids farewell to Park City
After 13 years of shaping young minds Julie’s Little Geniuses is closing its doors.
Founder Julie Meeks and her husband recently bought a new home in Heber which led to Meeks’ decision to make this the school’s final year.
The preschool, located near Kimball Junction, is run from Meeks’s home.
In her sunny basement she teaches 3 to 6 year olds phonics, math, Spanish and dance. Over the years she has taught nearly 750 students.
"It’s been great, these kids come in and we laugh all day long," Meeks said.
With the closing of her school, Meeks is not sure what will come next.
"I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up," she joked.
While she toyed with the idea of opening another school, there are no solid plans for one and Meeks said she feels the time for Julie’s Little Geniuses has come to a conclusion.
"I just think there’s a time and place for everything, and this was the time and place (for the school)."
Many of her former students are preparing to leave the nest, those Meeks taught when she first opened Julie’s Little Geniuses will graduate high school as part of the class of 2007.
From the original geniuses enrolled her first year to the students of her final year, Meeks has always maintained small class sizes with a maximum of 12 students. She said she feels anything larger would compromise the integrity of her students learning environment, which currently allows for a teacher to student ratio of 1:6. With Meeks’ commitment to maintaining this, every year she has a wait list of nearly a dozen people and has to turn many of them away.
With the exception of this year, Meeks begins registration in December and fills up quickly. While she said she hates to refuse people she doesn’t want to sacrifice the quality that gives her school a good reputation.
Her students are from Park City, Heber and Salt Lake City. The high demand for her services comes without advertising, and you won’t find Julie’s Little Geniuses listed in the phone book.
"I’ve never advertised, it’s just been word of mouth and it’s always been full," she said.
Meeks credits this to parents who often recommend her to friends because they are pleased with what is offered at Julie’s Little Geniuses.
"We teach a strong phonics foundation. The kids leave here as pretty good readers," she said. "They get a lot of one on one attention. I don’t get a lot of turnover with my teachers, my teachers stay here forever."
She said in 13 years a huge highlight has been the children and also the friendships she has formed with parents.
Meeks has several annual traditions that she upholds with her students.
They celebrate Christmas and Hanukah, each year they also make a quilt and donate it to Primary Children’s Hospital with the exception of this year when it went to the Children’s Justice Center.
Meeks’ daughter, Nicole Lambert, was present for much of this as she was recently brought on as a teacher for the school. Next year Lambert will graduate from the University of Utah with a degree in early childhood education and said she hopes to follow in her mom’s footsteps and one day open a school.
"I think she’s a great teacher, and she really does love the kids,"
Lambert said of Meeks.
Lambert grew up watching her mother, and was taught by her at the Challenger School. Meeks has educated all four of her children either at the Challenger School or Julie’s Little Geniuses. One of the reasons Meeks never offered summer camps with her school was to spend time with them.
From her mother’s example Lambert said, "I’ve learned patience, I think I’ve learned how to better manage a business and different ways kids learn."
On Friday Lambert conducted show and tell. Before students could show what they brought they had to tell her what it was and which letter it began with. After they named the letter, she stamped it on their hand as a reward.
Lambert said she is sad to see Julie’s Little Geniuses close.
"I think they’re loosing a really good preschool, this is a close-knit community," Lambert said.
A surprise barbeque will be held at the Pavilion behind the Kilby LDS church after graduation. All who have attended Julie’s Little Geniuses are invited.
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