New Early Childhood Education Center specifically constructed with kids in mind

The LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney is the first academic footprint on UNK’s developing University Village development. It will become a model for early childhood education, early childhood educator preparation, and research.
The LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney is the first academic footprint on UNK’s developing University Village development. It will become a model for early childhood education, early childhood educator preparation, and research.

By TIFFANY STOIBER
Kearney Hub Staff Writer

KEARNEY — With the construction of the new Early Childhood Education Center, the amount of space, number of kids and number of employees will more than double.

“We’re excited,” said JoAnna Cordova, director of the center. “We’re so excited to be in a facility that’s going to be able to help us provide the best services for the children we can.”

The new center, named the LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, will be built in the University Village section of campus, providing close proximity to the newly constructed Village Flats. Planned for completion in summer 2019, the .8 million building will have 19,900 square feet devoted to serving kids.

The Early Childhood Education Center also offers summer camp when school is not in session, where children get to explore topics like “No Scare Healthcare,” where they tour the University of Nebraska Medical Center and learn about what it’s like to be a doctor or nurse. (Photo by Tiffany Stoiber, Kearney Hub)
The Early Childhood Education Center also offers summer camp when school is not in session, where children get to explore topics like “No Scare Healthcare,” where they tour the University of Nebraska Medical Center and learn about what it’s like to be a doctor or nurse. (Photo by Tiffany Stoiber, Kearney Hub)

The current facility holds only four classrooms, so the center serves approximately 75 children. However, the new building will hold 11 classrooms, meaning there can be two infant rooms, two toddler rooms and six preschool rooms, with a capacity of 175 students.

“We’re just going to be able to provide more services for families and also better services because the building is going to be designed for what we do,” Cordova said.

Not only will the space be larger, it will be specifically designed for child care, unlike the current facilities in Otto Olsen.

Originally, the space was designed for a preschool, so Cordova said it doesn’t exactly flow with the needs of a child care facility. To go outside, some classes have to walk through another classroom to get to the door.

The new Early Childhood Education Center was designed with the kids in mind, though. Each room will have access to the outside and have a kitchen area. Every two classrooms will share a bathroom and diaper changing area.

All the classrooms also will have more space.

According to Cordova, the new space, like the old one, will be more than just a child care facility.

“It is going to be a child care facility, but I don’t consider what we do right now just child care, anyway,” she said. “We provide educational opportunities for the children; we provide the developmentally appropriate activities that help the children become independent thinkers. We’re taking what we do now and we’re just going to do that to a larger extent.”

Being on a college campus gives the facility the opportunity to visit the different departments or have people visit the space. And Cordova sees a lot more people coming into the center in the future.

More space also means more students seeking child development-related degrees will be able to come in to complete their practicums at the facility.

“I think it’s going to benefit the whole campus,” Cordova said. “We’re not just talking about the early childhood education students that will be able to come in, we’re talking about nursing students, we’re talking about family studies, even theater or music students … We’re trying to incorporate as many departments as possible into what we do.”

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