New Signal Peak Childcare Facility Open for Business

By Guy Harrison, Media & Marketing Specialist

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - Twice the size, double the fun - that's what administrators for Central Arizona College's newest incarnation of the Childcare Development Center are hoping for thanks to a newly-minted facility located on the college's Signal Peak Campus.

CAC's Child Development Center has served children ages 3 to 5, of CAC students and staff, as well as local community members, since the 1970s. In opening a facility which now boasts two classrooms, the staff at the new Child Development Center will be able to comfortably serve twice as many children as it could in the past, and the new improvements aren't just spatial.

"There are a lot of things in the design of the facility that are specifically made for early childhood children," Sonia Loya, site manager for the center, explained.
These design nuances include softer, calmer lighting, windows set at lower heights so that children can peer through them, a playground with a recycled tire surface, and the use of natural wood for ceilings in the back patio area.

All of these features, taken separately, may appear to be minor, but they add up to a much calmer, more natural environment for children.

And while administrators are quick to point out all of the facility's shiny new features, they do not deny that the increase in space was necessary.

At the previous facility, the center could hold 30 children. However, only 20 kids were permitted in a classroom at a time to maintain a group size that ensures a quality childcare environment. With only one classroom in the previous facility, this obviously proved problematic.

"They would take 30 children because they needed to," Barbara Mezzio, director of the Early Care and Education (ECE) program at CAC, stated. Mezzio serves as a de facto liaison between the college and Pinal Gila Community Child Services, the organization that administers the center.

"But they would then have to try and figure out how to keep the group sizes smaller, like which children could be out at the playground at certain times while kind of separating them out."

Having two classrooms ensures that the Child Development Center will be able to easily and more comfortably keep group sizes at the 20-child maximum while maintaining its 10:1 child-to-teacher ratio. The center also includes three additional staff members per classroom and work study students employed by the center.

Children and their parents are not the only ones to benefit from the new facility. CAC's ECE, psychology and nursing programs allow their students to use the center for practical work.

According to Loya and Mezzio, psychology students use the new facility's observation rooms to study how the children learn, while nursing students assist in administering physicals to incoming children. For all involved, the Child Development Center has become a very hands-on place that puts an emphasis on kindergarten readiness.

"We teach the children independence skills, how to use the bathroom, how to wash their hands," Loya says. "When a child gets to kindergarten, there may not be that assistance to help them."

Socialization is another point of emphasis at the center.

"Being able to talk to another child, to be able to get what they want, or to be able to ask a teacher if they need to go to the bathroom - these are all skills that many children don't have when they get to kindergarten," Mezzio added.

All of this is in addition to children gaining pre-reading and pre-math skills in what Mezzio describes as a play environment.

"The kids won't be doing worksheets here," Mezzio says with a smile, "which is another indicator of a high-quality childcare center."

Those parents interested in sending their child to this hands-on, high-quality childcare center will be happy to know that the center's affiliation with Pinal Gila Community Child Services brings with it a national accreditation that was recently renewed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

"Pinal Gila goes through a self-study of the highest quality that exists out there in order to achieve this accreditation," Mezzio said.

Pinal Gila Community Child Services also participates in the First Things First's Quality First Program, one of First Things First state initiatives designed to increase the quality of, and access to, the early childhood development and health system that ensures a child entering school comes healthy and ready to succeed.
This participation provides the center access to a mentor, as well as funds to purchase items for classrooms. Childcare scholarship funds for those families that are 200 percent or more below the poverty threshold also are available.

Even if families don't qualify for these scholarships, tuition for the Child Development Center is still at below-market levels.

For CAC students, the full-time (6-9 hours per day) childcare rate is $119 per week while the part-time rate (3-6 hours per day) is $85 per week. For members of the local community, the rates are $130 for full-time and $100 for part-time. There also is a $20 and $30 registration fee for CAC students and local community members, respectively.

Placement priority is given to children of Central Arizona College students and staff, but the facility is open to the community.

Those interested in taking advantage of this high-quality childcare facility should contact Sonia Loya at 520-426-4379.

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814