Windom church transforms into daycare

The Spanish-immersion daycare Tierra Encantada opens in June at 5750 Wentworth Ave. S. Submitted photo
The Spanish-immersion daycare Tierra Encantada opens in June at 5750 Wentworth Ave. S. Submitted photo

A rock-climbing wall will stand in the former sanctuary of Southview Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which is transforming into the Spanish-immersion daycare and preschool Tierra Encantada.

“It will be the largest indoor gym in the entire state for daycares and preschools,” said founder Kristen Denzer.

Tierra Encantada currently operates locations in Eagan and in the Bryant neighborhood, which opened a year ago and has 80 families sitting on a waiting list. The new Windom location at 5750 Wentworth Ave. S. will serve about 200 children, including 48 infants. It started enrolling families about two months ago, and so far it’s 30 percent full.

Denzer said she’s happy to find a new site with ample outdoor space, a rarity for Minneapolis centers. A 4,000-square-foot playground will feature a poured rubber surface and separate areas for different age levels.

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She said she’s also happy to find a space kitty-corner to Windom Open Elementary School, providing children with a smooth transition to kindergarten.

Denzer opened her first daycare in 2013.

“I decided to do this because my kids were on a waiting list for almost a year to get into Spanish-immersion in Minneapolis,” she said. “…When you have a little baby, you want them to be at a place you can trust, and also fulfill your vision for how you want them to be raised. I started trying to figure out how to do that myself.”

Her children both attended her first center and are now fluent in Spanish.

“They’re actually better than me,” Denzer said. (She learned Spanish in high school and studied in Cuernavaca, Mexico.)

After about 60 years on Wentworth, Southview Seventh-Day Adventist Church announced that it outgrew the space and is now worshiping in a temporary location every Saturday at House of Prayer Lutheran Church at 7625 Chicago Ave.

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Renovations of the church extend to the heating and air conditioning systems, electrical system, added bathrooms and a full commercial kitchen, where cooks will prepare organic meals and snacks fresh each day.

Denzer closed her daycare centers on “A Day Without Immigrants” last year so that staff could participate in demonstrations. At the time, she said the inconvenience helped everyone realize the critical role of immigrants.

She said the center offers benefits for full-time staff members.

“To be honest, a lot of Tierra Encantada’s success is having great staff,” she said, noting a four-star Parent Aware rating. “We have zero turnover in Minneapolis since we opened. We have not lost a single employee.”

The center will hold an open house in May, and it is scheduled to open June 4.

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