Smart Start Learning Academy coming to Harlan

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The former Woodland Hills Christian School location is coming back to life, as the facility will be going into operation as the Smart Start Early Learning Academy.

Co-owners Sarah Veillom and Lee Roark have had a facility in Middlesboro for some time and are planning to open in Harlan in a few months.

Roark shed some light on the upcoming Harlan business.

“It’s an early learning center,” Roark said. “We accept children from six weeks of age until they enter kindergarten. We’re licensed as a type 1 childcare facility, we’re set up more like a preschool.”

According to Roark, the academy will have multiple curriculums available. She explained the Middlesboro facility has approximately 79 children enrolled at this time and has been in operation for four years.

The building is currently undergoing some upgrades to put the facility in shape for operation.

“We’re leasing (the building),” Roark said. “It’s a great building, but it’s been empty for 20 years so we have to add a kitchen, another bathroom and just freshen it up.”

Many will remember the facility as the Woodland Hills Christian School which closed decades ago.

Roark said they hope to open in August.

“We’ve got our plan submitted to the state for approval,” Roark said. “We can’t really do any major renovations until we get the approval from the state.”

Roark said enrollment will be starting in the next few months.

“We will be opening enrollment probably late in the summer,” Roark said.

Smart Start Early Learning Academy will also be employing approximately 30 people to staff the facility, Roark said.

“We have about 25 employed in Middlesboro, so we need more than that (in Harlan),” Roark said. “Probably close to 30.”

Roark mentioned a number of positions will need to be filled to staff the facility.

“We would like some with experience or with a CDA,” Roark said. “We’re definitely looking for anybody that’s had experience working in daycares or head start facilities, but that’s not required (for all positions).”

For more information on enrollment or employment dates, watch the Smart Start Facebook page or check their website at