Ribbon cutting held for new early childhood center in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Ribbon cutting held for new early childhood center in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Poplar Bluff Superintendent Dr. Scott Dill said that the Early Childhood Center has finally gotten its “forever home” within the district on Wednesday, Aug. 12, during the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Source: Poplar Bluff R-I School District)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KFVS) - A ribbon cutting was held for the new early childhood center.

The ceremony was held on Wednesday, August 12. The center is the first preschool age-level specific building in the history of the R-I School District.

It was finished under budget in the spring and was paid outright from district reserves, which saved taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments, school officials said.

The 34,000-square-foot facility features seven classrooms with individual restrooms for four year olds, five for three year olds, two mix-age classrooms for extended care, two speech rooms, one class for intensive needs, one sensory room and a suite to house the Parents as Teachers program.

There is also an administrative office area that includes rooms for conferences and testing, a nursing station, two large storage areas, a library with several reading nooks and a multipurpose gym for physical education with storm shelter capabilities.

Each classroom pod is color coded to help students navigate the building, and the floors incorporate patterns of shapes as visual cues.

The building is connected to the Kindergarten Center, with separated entry and exit points for traffic control, in addition to staggered start and end times. A total of 175 parking spots were added to the campus.

The outdoor playground is enclosed and completely ADA-compliant.

“It’s a happy place,” teacher Nancy Gill stated. “Makes you want to be a little child again.”

Gill has a tenure spanning more than 23 years and started teaching preschool in the Wheatley School building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, then at the former Kinyon Elementary and finally Mark Twain, before moving to the present Camp Road location. All of the previous buildings were retrofitted to accommodate the added program.

“Now all the details of the design and decisions were made with the idea of how this would function for 3 and 4 year olds,” said JoAnne Westbrook, ECH principal.

For example, she pointed out, young students no longer have to try to go through multiple heavy doors like at the previous open campus on North Main Street.

“It can’t help but lift your spirits,” Westbrook continued.

Along with the alternative school grand opening on the vacated Mark Twain site, the new ECH completes the building plan, which was funded by a single levy measure passed by voters in 2014. It added more than 245,000-square-feet of academic space across the district.

Made in Missouri, the new school was designed by Dille and Traxel Architecture of Poplar Bluff, with interior decor created by VVELL Studio of Maplewood. Contract work was led by Brockmiller Construction of Farmington.

The playground equipment was put in by All Inclusive Rec, also of Farmington, with surfacing completed with 100 percent recycled Missouri tires thanks to a grant through the State Department of Natural Resources.

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