Just moments before, Paxton and other future preschool students lined up as part of the official ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the facility at 3316 Bender Road. School administrators, board members, bond committee members, architects, engineers, the project construction management team, and preschool staff joined in the ceremony. The construction of the nearly 33,000 square foot facility is just one of the many projects supported by voters passing a $42.8 million bond in 2019.
“All of this is because of the generous support of you and our community. Several years ago we asked for a construction bond and it passed with a resounding response. We cannot thank you enough for your support throughout the years for our schools,” said Matt Powers, TK Board of Education President.
“Today is our first celebration of many celebrations to come to this building. We’re celebrating the opening of the Thornapple Kellogg Schools Early Childhood Center. This facility will house the foundation of our school system with three preschools - TK’s preschool, ECSE (Early Childhood Special Education) and the GSRP (Great Start Readiness Program.) Not only will our students have a safe learning environment, but our staff will also have professional development opportunities and meetings.” Powers said.
The building includes 10 age-appropriate classrooms with plenty of room for children to move about, a sensory room, multi-purpose room, offices and a large meeting room which can be used for staff development, board of education meetings and other gatherings. There is also a large playground designed as a natural playscape which includes elements and textures from the earth. There are tree logs for climbing on and under, stumps for seating, a large sand play area, a “mud kitchen” play area, as well as traditional play structures for climbing, slides, and swings.
TK Superintendent Craig McCarthy also recognized the community support. “We are really excited about opening this building. I want to echo Matt’s thanks to our extremely supportive community. This building is just an example of the support that the school district receives from all of you. So, thank you very much.”
He continued by thanking the current and former TK board members who worked on the bond and construction projects, members of the bond committee who worked for months preparing the bond question prior to the election, Preschool Director Sarah Hammer, and Day Care Director Lisa Kitzrow.
“I also want to thank our people from GMB architecture for the time and effort they put into designing this building and then our construction management team from OAK (Owen-Ames-Kimball). The tireless hours that they put into this project has brought us to this point, which is fantastic,” said McCarthy.
Cade Dammen, Paxton's father and the director of field operations for OAK and overseeing the construction, said working on this project has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“This is a super special project to me as a TK alumni (Class of 2009), a community member and now a parent in the district. So, I thank all of you for allowing me to be a part of this project. That being said, we couldn’t ask for a better team to deal with than your school board and all the people we dealt with at the school,” said Dammen.
Dammen thanked crews that worked on the building for their tireless efforts. “This was a tough project. The construction world post-COVID is an absolute nightmare, but we struggled through it. I’m excited to be part of the parent group in this and just excited that our community gets to make our schools continually better every day.”
With a quick snip of a yellow ribbon over the heads of the future students, McCarthy welcomed everyone to the new Early Childhood Center and visitors poured in four tours.
“It’s beautiful. I love the clear lines and the natural light. It’s so inviting and not intimidating for the kids at all. It’s welcoming and fun,” said Megan Brown, whose 4-year-old daughter Keira is enrolled in preschool.
Emily Proctor was also impressed. “I drove up and I couldn’t believe it. It’s so big and so nice to have all this for our kids. I’m really happy about it.”
Nicole Modreske walked through the building with her daughter Haven. “It’s beautiful. I’m glad we have put the value into early education. It’s very nice and Haven is so excited to come here.”
Nichole Lyke said her daughter, Sydney Westbrook, is also excited about school. “She loves to learn and this will be a really good place for her to get started.”
Sydney was all smiles. When asked what she liked best, she quickly blurted out “Everything,” as she leaped up in excitement.
The mission of TK Preschool is to provide a safe and caring environment that will stimulate and challenge young children’s growth in all areas of development. The curriculum engages all children in activities that address their social, emotional, cognitive, creative, and physical strengths and needs.