Scottsdale preschool expands to 3rd location

Martha Piccaio is the owner of WhizKidz Preschool, which has three campuses – one in Phoenix, one in Scottsdale and a Mesa campus to open this fall. (Kimberly Carrillo/Progress Staff Photographer)

WhizKidz Preschool is taking the leap to the East Valley this fall.

What was once PS Academy in Mesa, a K-12 school for students with autism and other exceptionalities, has been converted to WhizKidz’s third location, slated to open in August.

This is WhizKidz’s first location in the East Valley. The preschool also has campuses in Scottsdale and Phoenix.

WhizKidz is an all-inclusive preschool with play-based curriculum and weekly enrichment classes, including music, P.E., art and gardening.

At the Scottsdale location – the largest of the three preschools at over 8,000 square feet – students can be seen caring for the zucchinis, tomatoes, kale, sunflowers and more growing in the garden.

WhizKidz also provides diapers and wipes, as well as all-natural meals and snacks for its preschoolers.

“We are family centered, so we offer convenient, all-inclusive care, which means parents literally just have to drop off their kids,” said WhizKidz Owner Martha Piccaio.

At 5,500 square feet, the Mesa location boasts a state-of-the-art facility with space to cook nutritious meals for the students – meals that accommodate children’s specific dietary needs.

The Mesa campus will have nine classrooms, where students engage in hands-on learning stations, as well as take part in sensory learning and sensory play.

Each week, children are introduced to a new letter, number, color and shape, as well as other objects, words, and things that pair with each of those new areas.

According to Piccaio, WhizKidz’s curriculum sets the children up for success when they reach kindergarten.

“We work with Zoo-phonics [a multi-sensory language arts program], which is a really good program. [When] a lot of the kids that have been with us for several, several years get to kinder, they’ve already learned what they’re being taught in kindergarten because of the programs that we’re using,” she said.

WhizKidz also fosters a community for parents to meet, offers parents all-inclusive care and creates a support system for them to navigate parenting together.

“We create really amazing communities,” Piccaio said. “Almost every month, we’ll have a family event, and what that does is it brings parents to meet and just connect. That’s also a big, big game-changer. We’re not large and corporate. It’s my husband and I, and we’re there at the events and part of the hiring process.”

WhizKidz has anywhere from 25 to 30 people on staff.

“We are very particular on the things that we’re looking for that align to our core values and align who we are. So it’s a full circle,” she said.

The goal of Piccaio’s is to ensure the parents, in addition to their children, feel a sense of belongingness.

“We want people to find a place. It’s our psychology: When you feel that you belong somewhere, you stay. And if you feel loved and you feel safe, you thrive. And if the parent feels accepted, they’re most likely to be open to our suggestions,” she said. “We are an extension of their family.”

This year, Piccaio plans to offer parenting workshops free of charge to parents of children enrolled at WhizKidz.

“They come to us with questions or wanting feedback and support, and we don’t always have that appropriate answers to their questions,” she said. “So, we’ll bring in a parenting consultant.”

The parenting consultant will host training classes off-site, including potty training classes, toddler survival skills and more.

“It’s good to have that added resource,” Piccaio said.

Piccaio said she always had plans to expand to the East Valley. She was merely waiting for the right building to convert.

“We wanted to make sure there was enough space for children, good outdoor areas – all those things that we believe are important for children to have as part of their development,” she said.

After looking at many buildings, the once-named Pieceful Solutions K-12 school opened (the academy re-branded in June and moved to its new location in Gilbert this month), and WhizKidz began renovating the building four months ago.

“We were really looking to get into the East Valley because there are a lot of young families,” Piccaio said. “We’ve had families who’ve moved from Scottsdale and purchased a home out in the East Valley who have called us back, [saying], ‘You guys have to come out here. There’s nothing out here.’”

Similarly, the Scottsdale campus was converted three years ago. What is now WhizKidz used to be BASIS Scottsdale Primary. BASIS Scottsdale Primary has since relocated to 136th Street.

Piccaio started WhizKidz in 2007 from her home in Glendale and eventually moved into what was once Sahuaro Preschool in Phoenix, transforming it into WhizKidz’s first campus.

The Scottsdale campus then opened in 2016.

WhizKidz is now enrolling students ages 0 to 5 for the 2019/2020 school year. Enrollment caps at 125 students, and tuition averages about $260 a week.

Information: 480-999-4255 or whizkidzpreschool.com