Colorado State University Early Childhood Center Announces Expansion into New Facility, Offers More Services

Note to Reporters: Renderings of the building are available by request.

Colorado State University will expand its ability to offer childcare to CSU employees, students and the Fort Collins community while providing new learning and research opportunities for CSU students and professors with a newly acquired facility. The Colorado State University System Board of Governors today approved the university’s purchase of Washington Elementary School from Poudre School District.

The school building is currently unoccupied, and the purchase of the building allows the university’s Early Childhood Center to expand. The building, which will be renovated to meet LEED standards for sustainable and green building, helps meet a critical need in the CSU and Fort Collins community, by providing capacity to serve more families and extending services to infants and toddlers. The Early Childhood Center offers children unique learning opportunities because of its ties to teaching and research at CSU, including programs that give children experiences they may not have in other similar childcare facilities.

Childcare was recently identified by two separate groups as a top need for CSU employees and students: the Work/Life Committee found it to be a top need for employees, and a survey by TILT and Adult Learner and Veteran Services found that childcare services on campus were in need but inaccessible in part due to waitlists.

“CSU is proud to be able to help preserve this historic Fort Collins building in a way that will support students and families on campus and across our community,” said Amy Parsons, vice president for University Operations. “Thanks to the leadership of CSU students–who appreciated the educational benefits of the project–we’re able to move forward aggressively, with plans to be in the new center by January. Beyond that, we’ll continue to actively fund-raise to finish out the remainder of the project, including playground enhancements and historic finishes to the building.”

The current center on campus serves 80 families through 58 full-time childcare slots; the new facility will provide room for about 150 families through 100 slots. It also provides a significant gain in physical space, expanding from its current 5,000 square feet on campus to 17,000 square feet, nearly tripling the playground area available to children, adding four classroom spaces, and providing space for infant, toddler and preschool care. The program currently has the space to serve preschool-aged children only.

“A high-quality lab school is an investment in our future,” said Lise Youngblade, head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “By training the next generation of early childhood educators and researchers, by supporting children and their families, and by providing supportive and enriched early education that forms the building blocks for tomorrow’s leaders, we have the wonderful opportunity to weave the rich, almost 100-year-old histories of the Washington School and the Early Childhood Center and touch tomorrow.”

The Early Childhood Center is run by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. As a high-quality lab school, the center trains professionals in research-based techniques in the care and education of young children. It provides a cutting-edge learning opportunity for about 400 CSU students each year from seven different units or departments across campus including human development and family studies, occupational therapy, food science and nutrition, and teacher and principal preparation. Students engage in internships, projects, observational learning and obtain research and childcare experience at the center. The lab school provides an opportunity for CSU researchers and students to learn more about how to educate and understand the needs of children. The new building will provide teaching and learning opportunities for students and CSU researchers from many other areas at the university, including programs as diverse as in fine arts, health and exercise science, gardening and food production, and psychology.

The experience for children at the school is greatly enriched by the involvement of the university, according to Youngblade. Children in the Early Childhood Center have the opportunity to learn while CSU students learn about educating children. For example, CSU foreign language students teach ECC children language lessons; CSU nutrition students make healthy snacks for the ECC while teaching the children about where the food comes from, how it tastes and how it helps one’s body. Recently, veterinary faculty and students evaluated a program for the ECC about safety around dogs, such as how to determine when a dog isn’t friendly and may bite.

Because the center is a research setting, CSU students and professors have the opportunity to study how children develop, and how to support their development through programs that provide optimal learning for children. Programs span a wide range of skill development from early literacy, to physical education, to math and science, to artistic expression, and social and emotional skill development. The center also supports families through an active parent education program and involvement of parents in the school community.

The Early Childhood Center began in 1929 as the Child Development Laboratory School. Washington School opened in 1919 and served as a lab school in the Poudre School District for many years. The historical building will be renovated by CSU to meet LEED certification, keeping with the university’s commitment to green building, while also maintaining the integrity of the building’s historical features and significance.

“CSU is designing the building to qualify for a LEED GOLD rating under the Existing Building criteria as part of CSU’s commitment to providing facilities that are environmentally responsible and encourage sustainability,” said Brian Chase, director of Facilities at CSU. “Our efforts to revamp the building for the Early Childhood Center will also maintain the historical features of the building.”

The Early Childhood Center is part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, which is in the College of Applied Human Sciences.