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Fulbright Early Childhood Center is the first of its kind in SPS system

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - On Thursday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held outside the new Adah Fulbright Early Childhood Center located in south Springfield off Battlefield Road next-door to Carver Middle School.

The facility cost nearly $13 million and was funded by a bond issue that was approved in April of 2019.

It is considered a major step forward for the Springfield Public School System because while other childhood centers have been added to existing schools or refurbished buildings, this separate facility designed and built solely for early childhood use is the first-of-its-kind for the state’s largest school district.

“We are blazing trails in Springfield Public Schools,” said Christy Davis, the SPS Early Childhood Director. “We’ve dedicated the funding for a stand-alone center built from scratch for early childhood students.”

Named in honor of Adah Fulbright, a dedicated Black educator in the early 1900′s who taught for over four decades, the brand new center for four-and-five year-olds is certainly making current teachers happy.

“It is kind of a dream,” said Jessica Botts, a teacher at the childhood center.

Dreamy not only because of the latest technology and modern furnishings, but because it provides plenty of space during a time when social distancing is important.

Botts says another important addition because of the pandemic is the presence of bathrooms between every classroom.

“The ability to have bathrooms in our classrooms is huge because we’re trying to sanitize and keep our hands clean and keep toys and things like that clean,” Botts said. “It’s so much easier when you don’t have to go out of your classroom and it keeps you from maybe spreading those germs as much.”

The center is divided into three pods with four classrooms in each pod. Besides the bathrooms in each pod there’s also a storage area for teachers and an observation room.

“The observation room is great because we can have parents come in and visit,” explained Dr. Travis Shaw, the SPS Director of Operations. “They can enter into the observation room and see the children doing the things they would normally do without knowing they’re being observed.”

The two-story center also has a outdoor play patio that looks down on a walking trail from Nathaniel Greene Park and that wooded setting is also a part of the center’s motif. There’s a mural of the sun shining through trees as you enter the center and some rooms have “kindness trees” on the wall that praise students for being courteous.

And when you look at the building from the walking trail, it does resemble a giant tree house.

“It really took on that tree house effect which led to the choices in our materials and just the lay-out of the building,” Shaw said. “Just a nature-feel both inside and outside the building.”

Built to hold 250 students, there’s only 135 students right now in the early childhood center as limits have been placed on classroom size because of the virus.

And while this is a childcare facility, it’s also about giving these youngsters a head start on life.

“In some daycare facilities there’s not necessarily instruction going on,” Davis explained. “Here we have a preschool instruction and curriculum that we provide each day so there’s structured learning events and then unstructured time so students can explore and free play on their own using the instruction they’ve learned and putting it into action.”

“We want them to be kindergarten-ready,” Botts added. “A lot of people think that just means academically. But a huge part of us working with these students is helping them to be socially and emotionally ready.”

“We’re going to change lives in Springfield,” Shaw said. “And we’re going to start with four year-olds.”

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