Child center expansion near

By late September, new construction at the Helen Gordon Child Development Center will double the facility in size, with complete renovation of the original wooden building following not far behind.

The new construction will cost $3.5 million, and renovation of the original 1928 building will require an additional $3.5 million. The result will give Portland State a much larger facility for child daycare along with an expansion of services to the community.

Currently, the center serves 135 families. On a daily basis, it has 110 children.

“Once it’s all said and done, we’ll have more than 200 families,” said Will Parnell, associate director.

In 2001, center director Ellie Justice and Parnell wrote a grant proposal for the expansion funds. The desired expansion was aimed to further introduce the program to low-income families who need child care.

“Pretty quickly, the student building fee committee allocated funds for expansion of the center,” Parnell said.

“It’s in dire need of renovation,” Parnell said. “It’s a 1928 building, and it has problems that need to be fixed.”

“September of 2003 would be when we would start,” Parnell predicted. The renovation will include seismic upgrade of the original building. There will be cosmetic modernization of lighting and windows, upgrading of heating and cooling, new carpeting and other improvements.

The new addition will introduce extensive structural modifications to the original building. Walls will be removed so the two structures can be joined into one contiguous building.

Completion of the new addition to the original building will enable the center to add new services to even younger children.

Presently, the center serves children beginning at age 2 but is in process of reducing that to 18 months.

“The center is also adding a kindergarten program and will have a certified kindergarten teacher.

Parnell described the renovation as “pretty intense.” It will require erecting temporary buildings on the east side of Southwest 12th Avenue, currently the site of a temporary playground.

When the renovation is complete, all center functions will move back into the permanent site, including the permanent playground. This permanent playground is a separate project, and the center is currently conducting a fund-raising project to complete it.

“We’re looking for $70,000,” Parnell said. “That’s definitely a big piece that’s missing right now from our current budget.” The center has an auction coming up May 10 in the Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom.

The new academic classroom will hold 30 PSU students. The center serves as the laboratory preschool for PSU. Parnell acts as one of the teachers. The center also serves as a lab school for Portland Community College.

The current staff numbers 21 regular PSU employees, along with 40 to 45 student employees. The center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.

The Helen Gordon benefits from numerous technological improvements, including scientific light boxes, additional digital cameras and camcorders, and more computers for teachers.