Children's Garden Montessori School and Childcare in Richland has changed hands, but the transition's been seamless for students and teachers, the former owner said.
"The teachers and staff are doing the same jobs and loving the children just as much," said Kathy Kehl, who founded the school in 1979. "The biggest difference is there's a new name on the letterhead."
Kehl sold her business last week to Phoenix Children's Academy, headquartered in Arizona.
"I looked for a buyer for five years. It was important to me that the faculty and programs stay the same. I wouldn't settle for anything less," she told the Herald.
When Kehl opened the school at Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland, there were just 18 students.
Now, 33 years later, the school is housed in its own building at 2440 Garlick Boulevard in Richland.
And when classrooms are full, which is common, students total 148.
Children's Garden, a year-round school, teaches children ages 1 to 8.
"Phoenix Children's Academy has 113 schools in 22 states, each with a wide variety of programs. There are no cookie cutters in Phoenix. Each school is a little different and proud of it," she said.
"Our philosophy is to nurture children's discovery of the joy of learning. That's not going to change," Kehl said.
She will be staying on at Children's Garden for several months but is looking forward to having more time for her hobbies, spinning wool and weaving, making baskets and kayaking.
"I enjoy adult education and am looking forward to working with and supporting some startup schools. I received some mentoring along the way, and I want to give some of that back," she said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what I get to do now. New adventures are a good thing," Kehl said.