New, multi-million dollar Childcare center opens Sept. 26
Special to the Jefferson Herald
After years of planning and more than 12 months of construction despite some supply chain delays, the new childcare center at 306 South Vine in Jefferson is ready to open its doors on Monday, September 26.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome children and families to our new center,” said executive director Cherie Cerveny.
Parents toured the new center on Friday, Sept. 9, along with local media.
In addition to a new building, a new name will be used for the operation. Starting opening day, it will be The Children’s Center.
“Our mission remains true, providing ‘quality care in a learning environment’,” said Cerveny. “After 17 years in operation, we wanted the name to reflect our focus on our primary purpose, ‘the children’. We will continue to serve families throughout the county and well beyond. New building, new name and same genuine promise to children and families.”
The nearly 9,500 square-foot facility is a massive upgrade in space, technology and safety. The old rooms averaged just 300 square feet, while the biggest room in the new facility is an impressive 650 square feet with plenty of natural lighting, private bathrooms, sinks and even individual cubbies.
“The Children’s Center name really reflects our non-profit organization’s priority on serving children, caring for them well and making it possible for parents to keep our economy thriving,” Cerveny said. “‘Growth Happens Here’ was the theme of our fundraising campaign last year. We believe in it so strongly that it has been incorporated into our new logo. With The Children’s Center mission and in this great facility especially designed for early childhood care, growth will happen here socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually, helping our youngsters to be even more ready for school,”
The $2.1 million facility benefitted from the help of a nearly $500,000 state grant. The rest of the monies were raised through private donations and governmental allocations.
“We are so grateful for the support of the community’s businesses, individuals and family donors; the Greene County Board of Supervisors; Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation,” Bill Monroe, fundraising co-chair said. “Grants from the state of Iowa; the assistance from Greene County Schools; Midland Power Cooperative’s help with USDA financing and the many who helped with fundraising to make this a reality.”
The Children’s Center was built specifically with the children and staff in mine, a far cry from the previous operations which were housed in an old elementary school constructed in the the 1950s.
“After operating in several temporary locations over our 17 years having our own building is a truly a dream come true,” Cerveny said.
The Children’s Center building project began with a board requested market study by First Children’s Finance in 2016 to determine how much need there was for additional childcare openings. The results were shared with businesses in 2017 who responded favorably to the idea of more access to care for employees. Additional childcare was also a primary element of the “Vision 2020” plan as a key element in economic development.
Parents have had a special opportunity to tour the building along with members of the local media. Special events will be scheduled in a few weeks for a ribbon cutting, donor recognition and a grand opening for the public after the center is operational.
“We are so proud of this building and the impact it will have on families who are in this area now and those who choose to live here in the future. Childcare is an essential part of the economic vitality of this area,” said Jacque Andrew, The Children’s Center board co-president. “We want everyone to see what The Children’s Center is offering to parents and children.”
Designed by architect John Lott of Benjamin Design Collaborative of Ames, The Children’s Center is especially for early childhood aged youngsters from two weeks of age through fourth grade. A special architectural element of the building is the “look out point” in each of the seven classrooms, featuring window views the littles can enjoy.
“We know the kids will love the view from these windows,” said Andrew. Harold Pike Construction of Ames was the contractor for the project.
The building’s design increases the potential number of children to a capacity of 148 kids, compared to the 94 maximum allotment of the old facility.
“With the additional capacity, we will be able to welcome even more children, Cerveny said. “Of course we will be looking for additional staff as well.”
The security system has received a significant upgrade as well. Security systems including keypads at the entry doors along with surveillance cameras are built in to the new building.
“Safety features are important to parents and we have addressed this,” said Bill Monroe, co-president of the center’s board.
The Procare communications system facilitates frequent updates to parents during the child’s day.
“These features are important to parents and we were most happy to incorporate them in the building,” Monroe said.
Each room also has its own heating and cooling system, more economical and energy efficient than a central system, and also allows temperatures to be controlled for the comfort of the kids in that room. A total of 11 residential furnaces have been installed.
Restrooms and storage adjoin each room. A playground for the youngest children is under construction but play equipment supply issues will push back completion until next spring. Planning for the new playground for older children has been completed but construction has not yet started. All children will continue to play with staff supervision and enjoy the outdoors in the existing playground near the former elementary school building until their respective playgrounds are completed.
The kitchen has much more space for the preparation of lunches and snacks for the increased number of children and staff along with adjacent storage for dry goods, frozen foods and other storage. Sanitizing toys is a necessity and this function is carried out in a room with a washer/dryer and janitorial area.
For the convenience of moms, a private lactation room is available for their use with a dedicated freezer for breast milk.
“We want to ease the transition of babies to a childcare setting and make this shift as smooth and easy as possible for moms as well,” said Cerveny.
Office space for the center’s director and assistant director along with a staff room with lockers complete the building. A generator no longer needed by the Greene County Schools was evaluated for use and installed in case of power outage, a function it served last December following the tornado. An updated switch was needed for continued operation and approval. It has been ordered but is delayed until November. For additional safety, the largest classroom, designated for the after school youngsters, is ”hardened” with extra reinforcement to provide enough shelter for all of the children in the center should the situation arise.
Parents utilizing The Children’s Center will drop off their children the main entrance on South Vine street just south of the former gymnasium. As the community becomes accustomed to this practice, drivers should be aware of this new pattern.
“With the exciting opening of The Children’s Center on September 26, we will be serving more children and families in an appropriately designed building and further demonstrating to the community, county and region the high value we place on the care and developmental growth of children,” Cerveny said. “It is our hope that families will recognize this value and choose to locate here in this area.”