Parent Handbook - Updated 2024


Dear Families:

Welcome to Heartland Child Development! We are pleased you have chosen to enroll your child ... we are state licensed, QRS rated and non-profit.

Our directors bring well over 50 years combined experience in the field of child development.  Our decision to establish Heartland is the reflection of our dedication to children, families and professional staff.

We are professional and experienced … yet we want you and your child to feel at home here … and your experience with us a rewarding one.  If at any time you have concerns, suggestions, ideas, or just want to stop in and visit … please do so!  Don’t hesitate … that’s what we are here for.  Again, welcome to the Heartland.


Merilee Mescher, CDA, NAC
Director - Administration     
Tonya Jensen, CDA , NAC
Director - Curriculum


To provide an environment that enhances the well being, development and advancement of both children and professional staff.


Nothing is more important than an experienced, educated, well-trained staff dedicated to the field of child development.  Our directors have a vast amount of experience.  Our staff is carefully selected with regards to training, education, commitment to children and experience.

All staff meet the state guidelines for hiring, continuing education, CPR, First Aid, State of Iowa “Essentials”, Mandatory Child Abuse training, Universal Precautions, Passport to Early Childhood Education, etc. All staff have been fingerprinted + criminal history background check.

Heartland strives to hire those who already have their degree, national credential in child development, paraeducator’s license with early childhood endorsement … or are in the process of achieving it. If a new hire does not already have or are in the process of achieving … Heartland will, along with the new hire, establish a professional development plan for additional education. We may, at times, hire interns/assistants/substitutes to work with our regular, full-time faculty. Interns are typically students who are planning a career in a related field and are working to gain experience.

Because Heartland’s mission statement includes the development and enhancement of both children and staff  … we believe by hiring quality faculty and providing them with continuing education, above and beyond what the state requires, better than average pay in the field, and benefits we will, in turn, have better programming for your child.

Heartland regularly awards scholarships to fund adults entering/continuing their studies in child development/early childhood education.


Heartland Child Development is dedicated to providing quality child development programs to children through the following:  prek/preschool  (year round), toddlers (year round), nursery (year round) and school age summer day camp (June – August).

To Register:  January is reserved for current families to re-enroll.  February begins open enrollment for the public.  Enrollment packets and registration fee must be submitted prior to actual attendance  …  including physicals and immunization record (submitted on Iowa Department of Public Health form).  Packets are available by contacting Heartland at (712) 256-1877 or via our website:  Space is limited in all programs.

Contacts and Standards

Should you have questions or concerns, please contact us at any time here at Heartland Child Development.  We will be pleased to visit with you … your input is valuable to our future planning. General parent information, calendars, newsletters are posted on the bulletin board near the sign in/out table, emailed via our communication app, as well as on Heartland's website:  You can also email us at:

We pride ourselves in strictly adhering to current State of Iowa guidelines for centers.  Should you need further information on these regulations, a copy of the standards is available upon request from a director or contacts the Department of Human Services, 417 East Kanesville Boulevard, Council Bluffs, IA.

Non-Profit Status

Heartland Child Development is a nonprofit 501 (3) (c) organization as designated by the I.R.S. and accepts monetary and in-kind donations.  Tax receipts will be provided.

Parent Handbook Availability

Parent Handbook is available online at or in printed form upon request.

If special assistance is required to interpret the Parent Handbook (reading assistance, translations, internet access, etc.)  please contact Heartland Child Development.


Policies and procedures listed are subject to change at anytime with two weeks written notice.

Parent Orientation / Tours

We offer a Parent Orientation each year just prior to school starting (date is noted on the Registration Form and a confirmation letter with a reminder date is sent out mid-summer). Orientation helps acclimate new and returning families to Heartland policies and procedures.

Individual tours / appointments are available prior to registration. Please contact Heartland via email at or at (712) 256-1877 to schedule a personal visit.

Parent Handbook / Manual, which includes policies and procedures, is available in written form upon request during Orientation or Tour, or may be found online at As part of each child’s required paperwork, parents acknowledge and sign that they understand Heartland the policies and procedures as detailed and agree to support them as written.

Families who require assistance with translation / reading / other accommodation to understand the information provided, please contact Heartland administration so that accommodations can be provided / secured (translator, reading presentation of policies and procedures, etc).

Special Programs / Ceremonies

Christmas programs will be held prior to winter break.  Info will be provided in the December newsletter.

Graduation ceremony will be held in mid-May for students going on to kindergarten in the fall.  Info will be provided in the May newsletter.

Additional Program / Class Information

Additional Information specific to individual programs / classes is available under the “Programs“ tab.

Supervision / Student Numbers / Classrooms

All requirements for supervision training are included in the introductory training at Heartland, as well as State of Iowa Essentials and Passport to Early Childhood trainings.


Student Numbers / Classrooms

Heartland Child Development is licensed by the State of Iowa Department of Human Services for 90 children on the premises at one time 0 - 12 years old. Heartland classrooms include:

Nursery: State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:4
  Average age 6 weeks - 12 months
  Typically 6 infants
Toddler: State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:4
  Average age 12 - 24 months
  Typically 8 toddlers
Beginning Preschool:  State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:6
  Average age 24 - 36 months
  Typically 12 students
Preschool: State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:8
  Average age 3 - 4 years
  Typically 16 students
  Students must be toilet trained
Pre Kindergarten: State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:12
  Average age 4 - 5 years
  Typically 22 students
  Students must be toilet trained
Summer Kindergarten / School Age: State maximum teacher to child ratio 1:15
  Average age 5 - 12 years
  Typically 22 - 25 students

Playground Supervision

Field Trip Supervision

Visits / Access / Arrival & Dismisal

Children must be signed in and out each day (with time of arrival/departure + signature of adult dropping off/picking up). Your child will have his / her own personal sign in sheet in the entryway. Children may only be picked up by those individuals you have previously authorized in his / her paperwork. (Photo identification will be required if faculty does not recognize the individual picking up.) If there are individuals who have restricted contact with your child and may not pick up … copies of legal documents must be provided, i.e. restraining orders and custody papers.

If you do not plan to send your child to school, please mark your child as absent on the communication app within one hour of regular arrival time or contact school at (712) 256-1877. If there is no communication from home regarding your child’s absence, Heartland staff will contact families within one hour of regular arrival time.

Our building is secured at all times. Codes will be provided to families upon enrollment and / or as code is changed. Please only share the security code with those individuals who pick up on a regular basis. Otherwise, those arriving only occasionally to pick up can ring the bell and a faculty member will greet them at the door.

We request parents make drop off and pick up procedures brief – approximately 5 minutes maximum. Lingering at drop off can increase tension for your child. Lingering at pick up can be disruptive to classroom procedures and your own child’s behavior.

Heartland closes at 5:15 p.m. Please arrive by AT LEAST 5:10 to allow time to visit with faculty, gather your child’s belongings and exit by 5:15. Please respect that faculty members have school / family activities / professional meetings / other jobs that they need to attend to. An automatic $15 late fee will be charged for any child picked up after 5:15. An additional $1 per minute will begin accumulating at 5:15 p.m. Late fee will be due with next tuition payment. The late fee will be strictly enforced. This is a penalty fee … not a service. Families who pick up consistently late (3 or more times in a program period) will be asked to withdraw from Heartland.

Heartland requires all building visitors to sign in and out with name, date, time in/out and contact information. Our building has secured entrances, so all visitors are let into the building after ringing the doorbell, ensuring that staff have them sign in/out each time.

- Please be advised:  A sex offender who has been convicted of a sex offense against a minor (even if the sex offender is a parent, guardian, or custodian) who is required to register with the Iowa sex offender registry (Iowa Code 692A): shall not operate, manage, be employed by, or act as a contractor or volunteer at a child care center; shall not be on the property of the child care center without written permission of the center director, except for the time reasonably necessary to transport the offender’s own minor child or ward to and from the center; the center director is not obligated to provide written permission and must consult with their DHS licensing consultant first; if written permission is granted, it shall include the conditions under which the sex offender may be present including: precise location in center where offender may be present, the reason for offender’s presence at the facility, duration of the offender’s presence, description of how the center staff will supervise the sex offender to ensure offender is not alone with a child, and the written permission shall be signed and dated by the director and offender and kept on file for review by the center licensing consultant.

Remittance and Late Fees

Payments are to be placed in payment box on scheduled due date (Important: refer to specific program information for details regarding the program your child is enrolled in. This information is listed under "Programs" on this website.)  Payments not made by that due date are subject to late fees of $15 per week.  Outstanding balances over 14 days are subject to dismissal from the program and collection in small claims court.

An automatic $15 late fee will be charged for any child picked up after 5:15.  An additional $1 per minute will begin accumulating at 5:15 p.m.  Late fee will be due with next tuition payment. See more detailed late pick up information under Drop Off and Pick Up.

Within the resources of Heartland Child Development, financial assistance is available to qualifying applicants.  Financial assistance is a 5% - 35% discount and is based on household size, household income and need for care.


A child can not attend Heartland when they have any communicable illness.  This is for the protection of your child, other children and staff.  Fever, discolored nasal discharge, undiagnosed/contagious rashes, lice, vomiting, severe diarrhea, etc. are illnesses that should be dealt with at home for the comfort of your child.  A child with a temperature 100.3 or above will be excluded from care. Children must be fever free without medication for 24 hours to return.  Health Department guidelines are used to determine appropriate attendance for specific illnesses.  Children are observed upon arrival and throughout the day for illness.

Should your child become ill during the course of the day, the parent/designated emergency contact person (if parent is not available) will be contacted for immediate pick up.

If your child is going to be late or absent for any reason, contact must be made within one hour of regular arrival via phone / app / email. If we do not hear from you, Heartland is required to reach out.

Inclement Weather

Inclement Weather Policy

If Council Bluffs Schools cancel / remote learning day due to inclement weather … Heartland is also cancelled / closed.

If Council Bluffs Public Schools have a late start ... Heartland opens at 9:00 a.m.

If Council Bluffs Public Schools dismiss early ... Heartland closes at 3:00 p.m.

If Council Bluffs Public Schools already have a scheduled day off ... we will follow determinations as made by Lewis Central.

As a reminder, full tuition is due regardless of attendance/closings unless otherwise noted in the "Programs" section.

Developmental Assessments / Parent-Teacher Conferences

Utilizing developmental monitoring tools helps staff and parents understand if children are meeting their appropriate milestones.

Heartland screens development within 60 days of enrollment using the CDC Developmental Milestones.

In January and May … Heartland uses a portfolio assessment system that is a combination of anecdotal noting / work samples / Iowa Early Learning Standards (tracked on the Lillio communication app) / Assessment Report Heartland has created to help track skills gained. Heartland uses the information gathered to alter teaching styles / materials / etc. to accommodate each child according to the findings in their assessments.

Screenings and Assessments are specifically shared at Parent / Teacher Conferences held in January, but are available at any time upon request.

If it appears that an enrolled child is not achieving milestone markers, Heartland may suggest additional assessment / resources from outside services such as our local Area Education Agency (release required) or follow up with child‘s pediatrician.


Within its capabilities, Heartland welcomes children of all abilities. Children with needs, differences, disabilities, dual language learners, specialized health services, identified behavioral needs, etc. are open to enroll. Classrooms are inclusive to provide development and self-esteem for all students.

Heartland is open to, and will work closely with, families / related agencies / health providers / etc. via email, personal communication, and the provision of developmental assessments (signed release required). Should professionals suggest specific scaffolding, faculty will strive to implement said strategies to the best of their abilities.

If a child has an IEP, IFSP, health plans, work samples, teacher notes, etc. it will be added to the child’s assessment portfolio. Additional documents may be kept on file by administration.

Should faculty require additional training, it can be provided within their regular professional development plan or upon request. Staff supports are also available via Directors / Lead Mentor Teacher.”

Physical Behavior Policies and Discipline

It is very common for children birth to five years to “communicate” physically … which may include but not be limited to biting, hitting, kicking, pinching, etc. Understanding these developmental stages and the needs of children can prevent such behaviors.

Teacher’s first priority is to be proactive in providing caring relationships and educationally supportive environments that prevent challenging behaviors. These supportive environments include schedules, activities, routines, lesson plans and transitions to positively support individual children and the classroom population.

Additionally, teachers will make every effort to anticipate when a physical behavior may occur. Teachers may practice redirection, modeling, observing and recording behaviors/signs when a child might be on the verge of biting/hitting/etc.

When/if a physical behavior issued occurs, the following steps will be implemented:

If a classroom has ongoing physical behavior issues, Heartland will conduct an informal observation to determine that an appropriate, supportive environment is being provided by teachers. If the environment is determined to be appropriate, individual student behavior will be assessed. Assistance from outside supports may be requested for staff and/or children.

Self-regulation activities are part of daily lessons, faculty provides students with positive verbiage to problem solve during frustrations, fidgets and cozy spaces are available for coping and calming.

Teachers frequently reward positive behaviors with special recognition (helper jobs, stickers, rewards).

Teachers are trained in positive discipline techniques via new employee orientation (Essentials, Passport to Early Education, in-house orientation and continuing education). Corporal punishment is never acceptable and prohibited at all times.

These policies are shared with parents and staff via Parent Manual and Employee Handbook.

Suspension / Dismissal Policy

Heartland strives to provide the best care and learning environment for all enrolled children. However, we do realize that as a private school we may not have all the resources necessary to best address extraordinary learning needs / specialized services.

Should a child exhibit behavioral / developmental / physical issues in the classroom, teachers / administration may utilize the following:

In the event that parents have questions or concerns, they should discuss them with their child’s teacher and / or the administration. If a parent is seriously dissatisfied with an aspect of the school's programs or activities, they may wish to exercise their option of choosing another school for their child or children with a two-week paid notice. If serious dissatisfaction results in continued agitation on the part of parents, the administration will assess the impact of such agitation, and after discussion of the matter with the said parents, Heartland may exercise the school's prerogative to have a family withdraw their child from enrollment.

Children may also be discharged if tuition is outstanding over 14 days. Balances are still due regardless of dismissal and are subject to collection by small-claims court.

Heartland will not tolerate discrimination of any kind against its families. Displaying intolerance towards another family will result in dismissal from the program.

What Should My Child Wear to School?

Please send your child to school in comfortable play clothes and shoes. Please do not send them in items you are concerned about damage or stains. Children are here to play and experience their environment. If they are concerned about their clothing / parents getting upset, they may be limiting themselves from potential exploration.

Please send them in clothing appropriate for an entire day. It is easy to take off / add a jacket or sweater to adapt to weather conditions, but teachers do not have time dress / re-dress children in new outfits throughout the day.

Please do not send children with bows, jewelry, etc. that you are concerned about getting lost. Please also refer to the Strangulation Prevention section.

Flip flops are not appropriate and are not recommended except for summer water fun days. Crocs also sometimes hamper stability. Please take note and send your child in safe footwear.

Please allow the teachers to guide, nurture and educate … not monitor clothing and shoes which limits valuable classroom time.

Nap Blankets/Mat Coverings

Nap time blankets, mats and coverings are to be provided by families (with the exception of Nursery).

If you choose a vinyl-type mat for nap, it must be covered with a cloth material (i.e. pillow case).  Nap time blankets and mat coverings are scheduled to be taken home on your child’s last day of attendance each week to be laundered.  Please be sure to return all materials on the first day of attendance the following week.

If applicable, please be sure to place the cloth covering back on your child’s vinyl mat so that it is ready for nap time after laundering.  This is a task that is too difficult for children to accomplish on their own and it is time prohibitive for teachers to replace cover for each individual child.

Toys from Home

Other than child's special naptime buddy or show & tell, children should not bring toys from home.

Lost and Found

Please check your child’s designated space each day to make sure no belongings are left behind.  Neither Heartland Child Development nor its staff is responsible for missing items.  Unclaimed items will be donated to charity at the end of the program.


Heartland Child Development encourages families and friends to “LIKE” Heartland’s Facebook page.  Please know our faculty is prohibited from becoming “friends” with currently enrolled families / parents unless that relationship existed prior to enrollment.


Photos taken by Heartland Child Development are sometimes published on Heartland’s website or Facebook page. Heartland does NOT identify students by name. Permission will not be secured for these publications. If photos are submitted to the newspaper or are taken by newspaper staff for publication with identification, permission will secured by parent/guardian prior to publication.

Tax Statements

Tax statements are available only upon request. Families must contact Heartland to receive a statement and they are available January through April each year. Families may also track payments on their own payments using cancelled checks or hand-written cash receipts provided by Heartland. Heartland’s federal tax identification number is 81-0548086.


All individuals participate at their own risk.

Should an accident occur while participating in Heartland programming, a report will be completed. Parents are required to sign the report at pick up. Parents will receive a copy and one will be kept on file. Parents are responsible for any care sought and the cost.

Participants agree to indemnify and hold harmless Heartland Child Development, their officers, Board members and employees, and defend against all claims brought or actions filed, for any and all claims, suits, actions, debts, damages, costs, charges and expenses - including court costs and attorney's fees - and against all liability, losses and damages an any nature whatsoever, including but not limited to property damage and personal injury, including death resulting at any time there from, arising from any alleged acts of negligence, either active or passive, of the participant or any person acting on his/her behalf arising from the activities which are subject to the signed Enrollment Information packet and information contained in this Handbook.

Emergency Protocol

Heartland Child Development has specific procedures for a variety of emergency scenarios including (not limited to):  tornado, fire, intruders, building evacuations, missing child, etc.

Typically, a posting is placed on the entrance doors directing families in the event of emergency.

If the building is evacuated for fire (and weather permitting) faculty and children will evacuate to the parking lot southeast of our school building (church / funeral home parking lot on the corner of South 7th Street and First Avenue).  If extended evacuation / inclement weather precludes outside holding, Heartland will shelter in place at St. John’s Lutheran Church (one block south of our school at the corner of South 7th Street and Willow Avenue).

Strangulation Prevention

Heartland strives to eliminate potential strangulation hazards to keep enrolled children safe.  This includes the following:

Oral Health

Good oral hygiene is important for all children even during the school day.  This includes the following:

Tobacco - Nicotine Free Policy

It is not healthy for children to be exposed to tobacco, nicotine, electronic cigarettes and vaping. Additionally, exposure to second-hand smoke can also create risks ... especially for those with respiratory ailments. Therefore, tobacco / nicotine / electronic cigarettes / vaping are prohibited inside Heartland Child Development, on our grounds, in employee vehicles while on duty, and inside chartered school buses. Furthermore, teachers are prohibited from wearing clothing that smells of smoke while working.

Playground Equipment Stability / Fall Surfacing Inspections

Heartland playground has commercial fall surfacing tiles professionally installed around climbing equipment area. Climbing equipment is also professionally installed and anchored as directed in manufacturers guide.

Playground Equipment Stability and Fall Surfacing


Heartland participates in the federal child/adult care food program.  It is designed to provide improved nutrition for all participants and to promote lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits.  In order to implement this program, guidelines require an income eligibility application form.  The form is included with the enrollment packet.  All information collected is confidential and used solely for the purpose of the food program.

All Programs (excluding Nursery):