September 25, 2009


College dedicates education building, child care center

The $10 million project is SUNY Cortland’s first new instructional building in 38 years

EducationJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Teacher Karen Diescher works with preschool children at SUNY Cortland’s new Child Care Center in the college’s Education Building.

Staff Reporter

Children toddled and strutted out of SUNY Cortland’s new Child Care Center and into the sun Thursday, as administrators, politicians and alumni held a ribbon-cutting ceremony nearby for the facility and the adjoining Education Building.
The center’s outdoor play area between the new building and Van Hoesen Hall has a progression of exercise and play stations. With adult supervisors watching, the children headed right for them.
Inside, graduate students and other guests toured rooms where children can take naps and play with a range of toys, while childhood education students observe them and interact with them.
Almost two years after breaking ground, the college dedicated the $10 million building, the first new instructional building in 38 years on the campus.
The three-story main building, containing classrooms and offices, has been used for instruction since January. The Child Care Center is one wing of it.
State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), who helped the college secure state funding for the daycare center, called the center and the building a sign of SUNY Cortland’s importance in regional and state education.
The ceremony drew about 100 people, including alumni, students and city officials.
The ceremony was for the Education Building too, but since the Child Care Center was just finished in July, and just opened for use this month, most of the guests wanted to tour that.
Johanna Hartnett, the center’s director, noted that up to 106 children can use the center’s facilities, aged 5 weeks to 6 years. The center has six classrooms and plenty of play room, with a large area outside the doors where the roof overhangs, making a space where children can play on rainy days.
About 120 SUNY Cortland students each year will volunteer or do practical experience sessions there, Hartnett said, while students in psychology can learn by observing the children.
The center grew from a need for students who were single parents to have a place for their children during the day, said former administrator Angela Thurlow, who spearheaded the committee that worked for eight years to find space and funding for the center.
Thurlow, former associate director of admissions, said she and about six other women decided in 1985 that the center was needed. They recalled that students learned a great deal by interacting with children in the college’s Campus School, which closed in 1981.
“You can’t teach teachers without showing them” what children are like, Thurlow said.
One of the speakers, 1997 graduate Jason Andrews, Windsor superintendent of schools, said the Education Building and center pleased him as someone who hires SUNY Cortland education majors and sends students to the college.
Junior Juliann Lykos, president of the Education Club, said the facade’s materials were strong yet soft, two qualities that teachers need.
“To be a teacher means to always be part of a child’s life,” Lykos said.
Money for the center and Education Building came from the SUNY Construction Fund.
The center’s playground and three of its rooms were paid for by a $133,600 Startup Expansion Grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services. Funding for the entire project was obtained by Seward and Lifton, whom Hartnett called “strong advocates for children and our future.”
The playground has little buildings and a progression of play areas. For those children who can just crawl or take a few tentative steps, a mound of dirt and grass provides climbing. The stations for older children around the courtyard include a sand box, slides, ramps and a stainless steel dome.
James Cantu, a graduate student in childhood education, toured the building with his literacy class.
“This facility is impressive because it provides a way to go outside and play if it’s raining or snowing,” Cantu said, nodding to the roof overhang outside the doors. “Children who have allergies to grass or can’t go outside for other reasons can play there. There is plenty of room.”
Kim Michaels of Ithaca’s Trowbridge and Wolf, the landscape architect who designed the playground and the lawns and stonework around it, said the metal dome will not become hot in the sun because it reflects light.
“This facility is so beautiful, I brought my own kids here today,” she said.
Steve Hugo of Ithaca’s Holt Architects, who designed the building, said his goal was to create something new that blended with the original buildings, Van Hoesen and Cornish halls, to which the new building is attached.
Cornish Hall is undergoing a $6 million renovation to create office, resource and work spaces. It is expected to open next spring.


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