DRYDEN — Outside Tompkins Cortland Community College’s new child care center on Tuesday, workers dumped dirt. A pile of wood chips stood ready to be spread. There was no lawn.
Inside, boxes sat in hallways and staff and employees bustled late into the afternoon.
The center opens today, 3 1/2 years after the college announced plans for it.
Fifty-six children will fill its six classrooms — two each for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers — said Director Casey Goodwin.
The 8,674-square-foot Arthur Kuckes Childcare Center nearly triples the size of the college’s previous child care facility, allowing the college’s to provide care for up to 80 full-time equivalent slots, instead of 30. In addition to classrooms, it has separate indoor and outdoor play areas for each group of children and other facilities.
It will also expand the age range of children served to include infants as young as 6 weeks, increasing capacity where there’s a need across the greater Cortland area. “Infants and toddlers is the problem, and we’re totally full,” Goodwin said.
The facility will give priority to students, then staff, before opening slots to the general community, said Paul Brenner, TC3’s director of advancement, who raised much of the $5.5 million to build the facility and establish a $1.5 million operating endowment.
It will also be a learning lab for students in the college’s early childhood academic program, offering internships and training for students in child care, teaching and nursing.
The college secured state and public funding for the project, including $500,000 grants secured by both state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca).
However, the largest donation, $2 million, came from Arthur Kuckes of Ithaca, who previously owned the Ithaca-based Vector Magnetics Inc. before he sold the business.
Kuckes has previously donated a substantial amount of money to TC3, including $2 million to the school’s Farm to Bistro project in 2014 and more than $7 million to the TC3 Foundation and Pathways Program, which offers scholarships to nontraditional students who wish to return to school.