After four decades of steady use, the Jefferson City Day Care Center on Myrtle Drive is slated for $500,000 in needed renovations.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon visited the center to announce an investment through "Missouri Start Smart," a statewide initiative designed to improve early childhood education.
Specifically, Nixon announced the Missouri Department of Economic Development would authorize $200,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits, which will provide $400,000 to assist the center.
In addition to the state funding, the center has dedicated another $100,000 to cover the total project cost.
Rick Vaughan, who chairs the center's building committee, was delighted to hear more funding is available. The center's leaders are working with the Columbia-based firm, Connell Architecture, to plan the renovations.
"This is exciting," he said.
The board has a list of projects they hope can be completed in four or five phases, but the first one they want to take on is replacing the roof. Vaughan also said improving the building's dated kitchen is also critical.
"The kitchen needs new cabinets and also appliances," he said.
Vaughan also said a wide staircase needs to be removed because it isn't handicapped-accessible and it takes up space that otherwise could be used for classrooms. The building also needs a new furnace because the current one has never worked well.
He also noted the space where the toddlers spend their day is large and wide-open.
"It's noisy," he said. "We hope to separate that space with walls."
Director Donna Scheidt said the center acquired the building from the Housing Authority in 1972. "It's in need of renovation," she said.
The funds will be used to secure the building's entrances, improve its sprinkler system and add more natural light, she said. She said right now the building has line-of-sight issues, but the renovations will make it possible for preschool teachers to keep their eyes on their charges at all times. She also wants more restrooms on hand in the classrooms.
Vaughan also hopes the outside of the structure can be enhanced.
"We want to make it a building the community is proud of," he said.
At Tuesday's press conference, Nixon said the state's "fiscal discipline" is finally paying off with higher employment and improved revenues, making projects like this one possible.
"The first five years of a child's development have an impact that lasts a lifetime," Nixon said. "By making sure kids enter kindergarten ready to learn, we can prevent much more difficult and expensive problems down the road."
The governor added that quality early learning experiences can lead to later success in school and the workforce.
Although dozens of facilities applied for the funding, Jefferson City Day Care Center is one of 10 winners that received it. Nixon has made similar announcements this week at early childhood facilities in Van Buren and Kansas City.
"This is my first public appearance at naptime anywhere," Nixon joked. "I might try that calming music again to get the same effect."