GRCC preschool’s grand opening on Jan. 21 includes tours



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

Jan. 13, 2017 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College will mark the grand opening of the Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory with a community open house from noon to 2 p.m. Jan. 21.

Tours and information about the preschool will be provided during the open house, and guests may park in the Bostwick Avenue parking ramp.

Since its founding in 1974, the Laboratory Preschool has been located in First United Methodist Church at 227 E. Fulton St. GRCC broke ground on a $8.7 million, state-of-the-art preschool building at 210 Lyon St. NE in summer 2015.

President Dr. Steven C. Ender said it has been a longtime goal for the preschool to have its own building.

"We are excited to open a new facility that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of two populations: preschoolers from ages 6 weeks to 6 years and the students in our Child Development and Education programs," he said. "It also will be an invaluable asset to the Laboratory Preschool's work of assisting Grand Rapids with meeting state and local early childhood care and education goals by providing resources and meeting space."

Preschool director JaneAnn Benson said the new building will be an early childhood hub for the entire area.

"Early childhood care providers from the community will meet here to learn and share practices that best support children and families," she said. "The building will also serve to support families in the care of their children -- providing a dynamic space for their children to learn and grow, providing child and community resources, and events that support healthy family development."

The building, named in honor of the person who began both the Laboratory Preschool and Child Development programs, will feature: 

  • Access to outdoor space for all classrooms.
  • Multipurpose spaces to host large motor activities for children as well as community and family events.
  • A children's library.
  • Lockers and designated spaces for students in Child Development and Education programs.
  • Observation rooms for use by Child Development and Education students.
  • Individual meeting spaces in each classroom.
  • An office for Child Development and Education faculty.
  • An adult classroom, for Child Development and Education courses and for meetings of area educators and care providers.

An ecological theme is also woven throughout the building, based on the textures and design elements chosen to fill out the spaces, Benson added.

"Different textures represent things such as forest/woodland, marsh/meadow, lake/river and sand dune/beach," Benson said. "There also are circles throughout the building representing many things, including how connected we are, bubbles in the river, bubbles that children love to play with, and our connection with the neighborhood."

Additional classrooms in the new site will allow the preschool to expand services. 

The program plans to broaden early childhood educational support for families and caregivers in low-income Grand Rapids neighborhoods in an effort to better prepare children for kindergarten. The Frey Foundation, PNC Bank Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided funding toward a new community liaison position at GRCC to implement an outreach program with the new preschool as a hub connecting families, teachers and students with best-practice early education resources. 

Grant funding from foundations and donors provided $3.5 million for construction of the $7.2 million preschool building. Supporters include the Amway Corp., Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, Frey Foundation, Jandernoa Foundation, Kate Pew Wolters, Sebastian Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. GRCC's Plant Fund and bond financing provided $2.2 million toward the project. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation also supported the construction with a $1.5 million program-related investment low-interest loan.

GRCC's Laboratory Preschool and the Child Development and Education Department are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The Child Development and Education Department offers Child Development Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences degrees, with and without the Michigan Transfer Agreement; a Paraprofessional Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree with MTA; and Infant/Toddler Child Development Associate and Preschool Child Development Associate Degree credentials.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.