Officials cut ribbon on WVUP’s Center for Early Learning

PARKERSBURG – Dozens gathered at West Virginia University at Parkersburg on Friday morning for the ribbon-cutting of the college’s new Center for Early Learning.

State and local officials, as well as donors and students, gathered on the back lawn of the new center as WVU-P President Marie Foster Gnage delivered opening remarks.

Gnage said it was a journey to get to the ribbon-cutting, “a journey that took many steps and started several years ago.”

Officials broke ground on the million-dollar, 5,000-square-foot facility in June 2011.

The center was developed through a number of public/private funding efforts, including state funds. Gnage singled out Bob Stephens and the McDonough Foundation for its work. She also asked that it continue to see value in the center.

“We will need support down the road,” she said.

Cynthia Gissy, WVU-P’s education and humanities division chair, said the facility will host children from 13 months to 6 years old and will also serve as a lab school for the early childhood education program.

Gissy said the opening of the center is “truly, truly an expansion,” noting the school has previously operated its child care in one room for the last 35 years. The new center has three rooms for children, plus an expansive outdoor yard. The $85,000 Seth Miller Pavilion features fans, cabinets, whiteboard and other learning materials. The pavilion was created by funds from Mike and Brenda Miller in honor of their grandson.

Geni Astorg, with the WVU-P Foundation, noted additional naming opportunities are available. The yard is flanked by a neighboring horse farm and senior center. Officials are also working toward an outdoor playground.

The center, which had previously been licensed for 24 children, is now licensed for 45, Gissy said. Officials hope to open the center to the public as well.

State Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said once folks find out about the center, it won’t be big enough. He called it a wonderful attraction and setting for child care and education.

Jim Skidmore, chancellor of the state’s community and technical college system, said WVU-P’s landscape is changing.

Burdette, speaking on behalf of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, referred to WVU-P not as a community college, but as the community’s college.

“It’s been an innovator from its first day in existence,” he said.

Officials are targeting the center to open next month, but said it will be ready for the start of fall classes.

“This is another important way the college transforms lives for the betterment of the community,” Gnage said.