New ownership helps increase enrollment at Little Engine Academy
Enrollment has nearly doubled since Bob Vaeth took over ownership of the school last summer.
BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER
Bob Vaeth, owner of the Little Engine Academy, sees a connection between trains and learning.
‘Trains are full of history and lore, and about making things work,” he said. “They ignite an inquisitive young mind.”
That’s why he chose trains as the theme for his preschool, at 499 S. Nova Road.
“It’s a great theme,” he said. “The kids love the trains.”
The Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting for the school Oct. 25 to welcome Vaeth, who took over ownership last summer. Enrollment at the school, which also offers childcare, has increased from 65 to 124 since that time. Vaeth and his wife, Joy, also own the 52,000-square-foot building and land.
The school accepts children from nursery to kindergarten. Voluntary pre-kindergarten is also available and is paid for by the state for 4-year-olds who turn age four before Sept 1. Private pre-kindergarten is available for children who turn age 4 after Sept. 1 and has an all-day curriculum.
Not only do trains run throughout the wall murals, painted by local artist Jeannie Jesse, a working model train is displayed in the lobby and is kept running by the Flagler Model Railroad Club.
Called the “train garden,” the display is a wonderland for any model train lover. Vaeth has welcomed the club, consisting of Don Cameron, Herb Lass, Steven Leclerc and Al Silverstein, to use his facility as its clubhouse. Members meet after school hours and work on the trains. They also have a room to store their equipment.
The combining of the school and the club, for Vaeth, seems like it was destiny. The train garden existed when Vaeth bought the school and, being a lover of trains since his dad operated a model train in their basement back in Baltimore, he wanted to build on the theme.
“My dad loved trains,” Vaeth said. “If he was here to see this, he would love it.”
Club member Don Cameron, of Palm Coast, said the arrangement is perfect.
“We can display our equipment in the layout,” he said. “We can rotate the trains and decorate for the seasons. Very few people have that much space to display their model train.”
Cameron said they are looking for members and the dues are only $10 per month.
The club plans to change the theme of the garden with the seasons, and the public is invited to stop in.
Trains will be on display in a Christmas Garden 4-7 p.m. the three Saturdays before Christmas, Dec 7, 14 and 21.
On the day of the Daytona 500, Feb. 21, the train garden will memorialize Ormond Beach as the Birthplace of Speed. The railroad club and other volunteers will display train and automobile history.
Next spring, the school will host a Lionel Lego party, where the school kids will display their Lego artwork in the train garden.