News Releases

September 10, 2010
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of
Communications and Marketing

Telephone: 360-992-2921


A Giant Step for Clark's Youngest Learners

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Monday, Sept. 13 
for Phase I of the new Clark College Early Learning Center


VANCOUVER, Wash. – On Sept. 13, Clark College will take The Next Step on behalf of its youngest students at a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of Clark’s new Early Learning Center.

The celebration will take place at 2 p.m. adjacent to the green parking lot #1 on the north end of the college’s main campus. Clark College is located at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

LSW Architects, based in Vancouver, designed the 5,000 square foot structure, which is being built by JWC Construction. The facility is scheduled for completion by summer 2011.

The project is made possible through a public-private partnership.  The state of Washington has provided $1 million for Phase I of the Early Learning Center on the condition that the college raises matching funds. During the dedication ceremony, officials will make what has been described as “a major announcement” regarding private support for the project.

Clark College President Robert K. Knight said, “At a time when our state funding continues to decline, it’s clear that donor support will be vitally important to our future – for today’s students and to help us meet our region’s needs for the future.”

Following the groundbreaking, architects will unveil the features of the new building. Clark faculty members will provide information about the program curriculum, and students will lead activities including cookie decorating and tile painting.

Clark Early Childhood Education Facilities: Past, Present and Future

Clark’s original Family Life Program (parent cooperative preschools) started immediately after World War II and evolved out of Kaiser Shipyard kindergartens.  

The original building for Clark’s Child and Family Services department was built in the 1970s with state of Washington funds acquired by former Senator Al Bauer.  Bauer participated in the dedication of the Cora Haag Parent Education Center on June 10, 1975. At the time, it was hailed as the only parent participation preschool operated by a college in Washington or Oregon. 

Bauer, a Clark College alumnus, said, “I have always believed that colleges and universities must find ways to support the earliest years of a student’s education.  I’m proud that Clark College is continuing its strong history as a leader in early learning.” 

While Clark’s programming and instruction have been praised statewide, the college facilities have not kept pace with advances in early childhood education. “For more than a decade, it has been our dream to have a new Early Learning Center facility,” said Laurie Cornelius, Clark College director of children and family services. “It is exciting to know that our new learning environment will fully support our program and our aspirations for our students.”

Vice President of Instruction Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd said, “The Child and Family Studies Program is a lab school where Clark students have the opportunity to put theory into practice by working with children and families. This is a unique approach which is considered a best practice throughout the U.S. In order to meet the needs of today’s students and prepare them for the work they will do after graduating, it will be important to successfully complete both phases of this exciting, learning-focused project.”   

The new Clark College Early Learning Center

Clark College’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Family Life departments are acclaimed regionally and statewide. Employing a three-prong approach, the faculty and instructors from both departments collaborate to provide curriculum and a learning laboratory for early childhood educators, guide and partner with community parents and families, and equip children with what faculty members describe as “a full spectrum of skills and training for life.”

The new facility will have plenty of large windows, use “green” building materials and construction practices, and incorporate interior courtyards. Exterior play spaces will create a sense of community, enhance respect for nature, and focus on natural materials.

Phase I – The indoor area of Phase I, to be completed summer 2011, will contain two flexible classroom spaces, a large multipurpose room, kitchen, and resource center. The multipurpose room will include a double-sided fireplace and stage, a kitchen pass-through counter, and movable furniture to support family gatherings, staff and community provider trainings, and children’s activities. The resource center will contain reference materials to nurture parenting skills and child development.

Phase I also includes an outdoor play environment with a sensory herb garden, live willow hut, rock spiral area for storytelling, bubbling creek bed with hand pump, and a tiered hill for climbing and playtime.

Phase II – Phase II, which is expected to cost $4 million, is still in the planning stages in terms of design and funding.  It is expected to include extensive remodeling of the two remaining buildings in the Children and Family Services complex. Two pods will contain two classrooms each that share bathroom facilities and an atelier art studio. Classrooms for adult students and office space for staff will be included, as well as a centralized reception/waiting space, and industrial kitchen and laundry area. Phases I and II will be linked into a single facility.

The Phase II outdoor area will incorporate tree houses, large rocks and downed logs in an enchanted forest to encourage climbing and experiential play, a grass maze with modular parts, and garden and child-directed research areas.