But Thursday's Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon gave many local residents their first opportunity to see the 10,800-square-foot addition. Before and after the meeting, the public toured the new classrooms, science laboratory, office space and child care center.
The child care center, complete with playdough on the tables, drew a great deal of interest from those touring. Mary McCord, senior minister with the First Christian Church, said she was especially impressed with it. "As a minister with young children in the church I was looking at how it was set up. It is very engaging, even for adults," she noted.
While the classrooms are already in use, the child care center is expected to open in February. Looking forward to its opening is Stephanie Campbell, a business major from Portageville who is taking classes at SAHEC. Her 18-
month old son will be one of those enrolled.
"It relieves the pressure of finding quality daycare or depending on family," she said. "Now my son will be just down the hall instead of 30 miles down the road."
Campbell joined Dr. Ken Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, in addressing the Chamber membership. Dobbins praised Sikeston leaders and residents for their support which made the two-story addition on the north end of the building possible. The expansion increased the current size of the 33,000-square-foot SAHEC facility by approximately one-third.
In addition to the new space, 1,800 square feet of existing space was renovated for a science lab.
Students began using the five classrooms and the science/computer lab when the spring semester began on Jan. 17.
Ethel Turk of Sikeston, who is studying business administration at SAHEC, said one of her classes is in the new rooms. The addition is nice Turk said because it shows "we are expanding and growing."
Judy Buck, director of SAHEC, agreed. She said the additional room will help serve SAHEC's enrollment which has continued to grow. Also the new science lab allowed additional lab courses to be offered this semester at SAHEC.
"Our science instructors are very pleased that we are now able to expand our science offerings ... to better serve the students in our area," she said.
When the new child care center opens it will have three classrooms, five bathrooms, plus four additional sinks in the classrooms for sterilizing and hand washing, two changing stations, a sterilizing dishwasher and a kitchen that prepares "plated" food (catered meals). The center will have its own reception and director's office and its own entrance.
Additional highlights include a 3,000-square-foot fenced playground area with both hard-surface and grass areas as well as a observation room for parents and for students doing observation work.
The child care center will likely accommodate infants from 6 weeks old to children age 5. The facility is expected to be licensed to hold 40 children at one time, although officials noted that enrollment could be more since some will attend part-time.
According to the University president, the child center will be used as a teaching lab providing the 30 students currently enrolled in the bachelor's program offered at SAHEC with an on-site opportunity to gain the required hours of experience needed for completion of the degree.
Dobbins expressed his appreciation for the dollars coming into SAHEC through donations, scholarships and tax revenue. Because of such support, he continued, "we are bringing quality education at an affordable price."
Total cost of the expansion is $2.18 million, which includes engineering and design, construction and furnishings. Construction work was done by Sides Construction Company of Jackson.