Former Lawrence Center takes on new life as a day care facility

Published on: 2/25/2014

Jim Hoeft saw the vacant Lawrence Center as an opportunity.

"I've reached the point in my life that I want to do something to make an imprint on the world and make a difference," Hoeft said. "So I wanted to try something."

He's done this by transforming the former schoolhouse and drug and alcohol recovery site on Saylesville Road into an Early Childhood Center.

The center is now open, and Hoeft, the owner of the center, will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 3011 Saylesville Road, which is just north of Waukesha West High School.

For Hoeft, reopening the 17,000-square-foot Lawrence Center, now called Lawrence School, goes back to 2009, when ProHealth Care moved the services it was using the center for to Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

ProHealth Care had used the facility for 25 years.

The facility was built in 1931 but shut down as a school in 1974. Ten years later, with the facility in poor shape, ProHealth Care took over and used the site after the county Public Health Department wanted to create a program where patients could receive clinical care and therapy.

Hoeft has lived his entire life in Waukesha and was familiar with the center. So after ProHealth Care left the center, he took on the project. He received approval for the project in May 2013, and had wanted to open the center last August, in time for the 2013-14 school year.

But the remodeling process was lengthy and delayed the opening, he said.

This included updating the sprinkler system and putting up new walls and a state-of-the-art security system.

"All the rooms are ready," Hoeft said. "I did my homework on this building, and now it looks beautiful. It turned out quite nice."

Care will be provided for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years.

Hoeft said the center will partner with the Waukesha School District for 4-year-old kindergarten for the 2014-15 school year.

Hoeft said the 4-K wing will be separate from the childcare area; these teachers will be provided by the Waukesha School District, Hoeft said.

The facility is on more than four acres of outdoor play space and also includes an outdoor recreation area. There's an indoor recreation room and a large muscle activity area, a library room, a group dining hall and separate rooms based on the age of the child.

Hoeft has one teacher in place for the daycare, and with attendance expected to increase for the summer and the next school year, he is looking for more.

"Most people are set for the year for daycare," Hoeft said. "Parents aren't going to start new childcare unless they're unhappy with the service. It's like real estate. Typically, people aren't shopping in the winter. But we expect it to be busy toward the summer."

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