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WVU-P opens new early learning center

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Who says college is for adults? At one West Virginia institution, even the littlest learners are celebrated.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg on May 17 opened its new Center for Early Learning. The $1 million, 5,000-square-foot facility replaces the college's one-room children's center, currently located inside the main building on campus. The Center for Early Learning will focus on the arts, literacy, culture and technology to teach young children beyond what they would learn in a traditional environment.  

"This new center opens the door to many valuable, hands-on educational experiences for our early childhood students," said Marie Foster Gnage, president of WVU-P. "But it also provides extended learning opportunities for the children, which will ultimately have a positive impact on our community."

The Center for Early Learning will house the college's early learning program for children aged 13 months to 6 years, and also serve as a lab school for WVU-P's early childhood education program.

The center's larger capacity and additional rooms will allow caregivers to separate children by age group for different activities. It also will allow the center to begin accepting up to 45 students per semester, nearly triple the number of students the center currently accepts.

Childcare will be available to both WVU-P students and employees, as well as the public. However, students and college employees will have the first priority. WVU-P also is looking at hiring additional childcare workers, preferably with early childhood degrees, to meet the required adult-to-child ratio.

WVU-P officials project the center will officially be in operation by the fall semester.

In addition to the new center, the college also celebrated the opening of a donated outdoor pavilion that was constructed near the Center for Early Learning. Parkersburg resident Mike Miller built the $85,000 shelter complete with cabinets, whiteboards and other learning materials.

Gnage said the construction of the center required a shaded, outdoor learning space for children.

"To open the center, it was required that we provide a shaded area for the children in the outdoor space," Gnage said. "Mike's generous donation made this possible."

Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff and Goettel of Pittsburgh designed the center and funding was provided by a bond from the Community and Technical College System. Groundbreaking for the center took place in June 2011.