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Early Christmas gift

Cave City plans to expand kindergarten, preschool with funds from grant

By Lisa Burnett

This article was published December 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

mason-simmons-left-and-allyson-crockett-right-color-their-assignments-in-a-kindergarten-class-at-cave-city-elementary-school

Mason Simmons, left, and Allyson Crockett, right, color their assignments in a kindergarten class at Cave City Elementary School.

An early Christmas gift with the school district’s name on the tag has arrived in Cave City. Two grants awarded to the district will fund construction of a new kindergarten center, which will give future kindergartners and preschoolers a new place to read, learn and play.

The district received $600,000 in state funding for the new kindergarten center through the Arkansas Facilities Partnership Program, along with $325,000 to build two preschool classrooms in the center.

“We talked about it, and [Steve Green] found out that we received the kindergarten grant, so it was perfect timing,

and we decided we would submit it and see what would happen, and lo and behold, we got it,” said Debbie Asberry, assistant principal at Cave City Elementary School and director of the Arkansas Better Chance Preschool.

The state funding for the kindergarten center is part of the Arkansas Facilities Partnership Program, in which schools make a wish list with potential construction projects, said Green, who is superintendent of the Cave City School District. The schools also have to justify the need for each project.

“The state department looks at each school individually, and we were blessed with them funding [the kindergarten center]. It was in our master plan.”

Green said the $600,000 should cover about two-thirds of the cost of the project.

“They base [the funding] on a wealth index, and Cave City is one of the poorer districts,” Green said. “Seventy-two percent of our kids are on free and [reduced-price] lunches. It’s always great when we have an opportunity to get some grant money.”

Asberry’s grant, the Child Care Center Construction Grant through Arkansas Community Economic Development, was the only one awarded in the state.

“We have to guarantee the facilities will always be used in a certain way,” she said. “Our preschool currently serves 60 children right now through Arkansas Better Chance.”

The new building will have six kindergarten classrooms and two preschool classrooms. Cave City’s preschool serves children who are 3 to 5 years old.

“We have an old building and a wing that’s kindergarten and first grade, a wing that’s second grade and preschool, and a third- and fourth-grade wing,” Asberry said. “Right now we’re at capacity, and the [new building] will give us room to grow.”

The new facility will allow for therapists who do speech, physical and occupational therapy to actually utilize a classroom instead of the hallway, which they use now.

Asberry said some of the accommodations in the current building aren’t quite what they need to be, according to the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale.

“We were lacking in some of those areas [on the scale],” she said, “such as the window lighting in our preschool rooms. Right now, we don’t have good windows and lighting, but our new facility is going to allow us to have better views and lighting from the windows.”

Along with better window lighting, Asberry said, handicapped-accessible sinks and toilets will be available, in addition to sinks to accommodate the children.

“With an older building, you can only do so much,” she said.

Green said construction for the estimated $1.5 million project could start as soon as spring 2014.

“We just now finished up with the surveys and soil samples, and I think soon after Christmas, we’ll finalize the plans,” he said.

Asberry looks forward to having the new building because the preschool program keeps growing.

“This is our 21st year, and we started out with 20 children,” she said.

After the grant money comes in, Green said, the district will use building and reserve funds to provide about $68,000 to finish paying for the 6,545-square-foot structure. Construction is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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