About 180 people turned out for the start of work on an early childhood center in south Oklahoma City. But despite the presence of influential people such as the governor, state legislators, the entire Oklahoma City School Board and community donors, the audience was most moved by a group of youngsters in white hard hats.
The children, who wore matching gray sweat shirts with the new Educare center's logo, gripped the black handles of their short gold shovels for the groundbreaking. A few were old enough to actually move dirt around, even if it meant dumping the dirt on the black leather shoes of George Kaiser, who led the movement for Tulsa's Educare.
Some of the children at the ceremony Monday still will be young enough to benefit from Educare, which will serve those up through age 5, when it opens in January 2009.
A portion of the center's 200 slots will be filled by students in Sunbeam and Early Head Start programs at the end of 2008, and by children on their waiting lists, said Ray Bitsche, executive director of Sunbeam Family Services and president of Oklahoma City Educare.
Some Sunbeam teachers also are expected to eventually move to the Educare center, he said.
The Oklahoma City Educare, made possible by a public-private partnership, is being built at S Byers Avenue and SE Grand Boulevard near Hathaway Park. Cesar Chavez Elementary School will be built next door with MAPS for Kids money, creating a comprehensive campus for children from birth through sixth grade.
, Oklahoma City Educare chairman and Inasmuch Foundation chief executive officer: "Together we will provide a level of service and care that would be impossible with each organization acting separately. By combining resources we will have a staffing structure that provides individual care, offers salaries that attract and retain the best and brightest teachers and provides comprehensive services committed to helping young children grow up safe, healthy and eager to learn. Ultimately we know that this facility will impact countless lives.”
•Gov. Brad Henry
: "The amazing thing about it .