After a 22-month construction period, the Sedalia School District's new Loftus Early Childhood Development Center is finally ready for the 2021-2022 school year.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday afternoon to mark the occasion with numerous city and county officials, Sedalia 200 administrators and teachers, and young children in attendance.

Principal Joel Sherman presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony, surrounded by students, school board members and staff.

Principal Sherman explained what services the Center will provide:

“Our main program is early childhood special education. So any 3-5 year-old who qualifies with a disability, they get to come here. Also we have 80 Title slots. So any kid with a delay or just needs some extra help to get ready for Kindergarten, we can bring them in,” Sherman said.

“It's the Sedalia School District, but we have an agreement with Green Ridge, La Monte, Smithton, Northwest and Dresden. So they send their early childhood special education kids here as well. So once they're Kindergarten eligible, we send them on to Kindergarten either here in the Sedalia School District, or the local (area) school districts,” Principal Sherman explained.

The new facility will help cut down on transition times. “We're just extremely proud of the building and really happy for my staff, some of whom have been around for almost 30 years. So they were ready for this. So they understand, more than I do, how great this facility will be for our community,” Sherman noted.

Sherman has been in education for 25 years, and finds his work very rewarding.

“I love seeing kids learn and reach their potential. And at this level, we get to provide that foundation for them,” he concluded.

Nearly two years ago, then-Board President Dr. Jeffrey Sharp noted:

“The new Loftus Center was sparked by the generous donation of the Loftus family,” Dr. Sharp noted. “Many times we focus on sports, music, JROTC, robotics and STEM programs. This center will enhance the evaluation and instruction of children who have physical and developmental challenges. We'll be able to expand our program to many other students through the Loftus family's generous donation. This building is another example of the partnership between the patrons of the Sedalia 200 District, generous private donations and prudent fiscal management from the Board of Education.”

Dr. Sharp was also in attendance Thursday afternoon.

In his speech, Superintendent Steve Triplett noted that “early childhood education is the foundation for a student's long-term success. And that is why Sedalia 200 invested in this facility, so we can ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our youngest learners,” he said.

“The vision for this center started from former Superintendent Brad Pollitt and was fueled by input from early childhood Principal Joel Sherman, and the very teachers who will inhabit this building every day. We are fortunate to have a collection of excellent Pre-K educators and staff members nurturing the students who will come to school here. So it was vital to include their insights. What has resulted is an early childhood center that will address the needs of every one of its students,” Triplett said.

The Superintendent then thanked the Sedalia taxpayers for their support of School District 200.

Rusty Kahrs, EDSPC, served as emcee for the event. He presented Board President Diane Nichols with a plaque at the conclusion of her speech.

Sedalia Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Leeman also addressed the crowd gathered for Thursday's ceremony.

State Rep. Brad Pollitt was also on hand and gave a brief speech as well.

Eastern Pettis County Commissioner Israel Baeza also spoke on stage and delivered short speech.

The cost to build the 40,000-square-foot ECC was around $10 million. The playground is 27,000-square feet, while inside there are 12 finished classrooms, with four more in an unfinished space.

Members of the Smith-Cotton Marching Tigers were on hand to provide a musical start to the ceremony.

The speeches were followed by tours of the facility.

A total of 58 employees work at the Center.