The toddlers in the shiny new playroom had no idea Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was right outside their door, along with three current and former college presidents, the president of Kentucky’s community college system, and just about every top administrator at Ashland Community and Technical College.
They were too busy scampering about on the multicolored tile floor, stacking blocks, pushing miniature trucks and fiddling with toy kitchen appliances to spare a glance at the big shots.
Beshear had time for them, however, carving some time out of his day on Monday to speak at the dedication of ACTC’s new child care center.
Located across Ramey Street from ACTC’s campus, the facility is named the Guy and Lisa Spriggs Child Development Center after its major benefactors.
“The care, development and inspiration children get from the center will help them to a better start in life,” Beshear said, speaking in the unfinished basement with the thundering of children’s footsteps overhead.
There with him were Michael McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, ACTC President Kay Adkins, former ACTC president Gregory D. Adkins and recent interim ACTC president Pat Lake, among others.
The 6,500-square-foot center is designed to house more than 100 students from birth to preschool age, mostly the children of students, faculty and staff. ACTC moved its child care facility from cramped quarters in the main campus building.
The center, which has been open for business since Sept. 24, serves a dual purpose, according to director Jewell Malik. Many of the caregivers at the center are students in ACTC’s early childhood development program, and the care center is a place where they put theory into action.
“It’s a more hands-on situation for the students. When they’re working in a classroom they can do more with the students,” Malik said.
The center includes observation areas with one-way mirrors looking into the classrooms so it can serve as a laboratory for college students.
The child care service is essential for many non-traditional ACTC students, who might otherwise not be able to attend classes, Malik said.
The center was a project of the Community and Technical College Foundation of Ashland, which had to raise about $1.6 million for it.
The center is a testament to the generosity of the Ashland community, Kay Adkins said. “It truly is important for the college community, the students, faculty and staff. It truly is a beautiful facility,” she said.
Beshear praised the foundation for its fundraising prowess. “The state did not come here and write a check. You did it yourselves,” he said.
Early childhood care and education are keys to Kentucky’s economic future, according to Beshear. Early education determines whether children will be ready for kindergarten, he said.
Kindergarten readiness is a hot-button issue in the educational community. Recently released results of a new screening test showed only one in four Kentucky preschoolers is prepared for kindergarten.
Beshear said Kentucky needs to do a better job of getting kids ready for kindergarten and that “there is no better investment of taxpayer dollars than in early childhood development of our children.”
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.