By Starrla Cray
MONTROSE, MN The new Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) building in Montrose has only been open about a month, but it’s already stirring up excitement in the community.
“People are just so thrilled,” ECFE Coordinator Devonna Tierney said.
The Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District purchased the building from a manufacturing company called Eden Electronics, and transformed it into a 9,000-square-foot facility that’s perfect for community education and other family-oriented programs.
“You look at it from the outside and the inside, and it looks like a new facility,” said Gary Kawlewski, the district’s director of finance and operations.
Bauer Design and Build in Maple Plain handled the remodeling process, which started about a year ago.
The school district owns the building as a 15-year lease purchase, and the total cost of the project was $1.3 million, Kawlewski said.
In addition to indoor renovation, the site also has a beautiful playground from Landscape Structures in Delano. The company decided to use the ECFE location as a prototype site for its early childhood playground equipment, providing the materials and installation at no cost.
“We really appreciate the help,” Tierney said. “Yesterday, we had 25 kids playing on it.”
For Tierney, one of the great parts about the ECFE facility is that it is located across the street from Montrose Elementary School (100 2nd Street).
“Our two preschool classes are already full,” Tierney said. There are 18 children ages 3-and-a-half to 5 in each class, including some with special needs. Being close to the school allows the ECFE center to utilize additional resources to help these students learn and grow.
“In the evening, we have a really neat literacy program called the Family Learning Program,” Tierney said. There are 12 participants so far, and more have shown interest in joining.
“All of them are Spanish-speaking and are learning English,” Tierney said. “It’s really aimed at the whole family.”
Each Monday, from 5 to 8 p.m., parents and their children get together for a catered meal from Red’s Café. For part of the time, families learn together, and for another part, adults and children are separated.
“It helps people who want to get their GED or go back to college,” Tierney explained. “We’re really happy about the success with that.”
One of the other classes at the facility is for 3- and 4-year-olds. It’s a transitional class in which children are sometimes with their parents and other times on their own.
For parents who’d like to stay with their children the entire time, there is another class for ages six months to five years.
“If people want to check out the center, they can come to drop-in playtime Tuesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.,” Tierney said, adding that the cost is $2 per family.
Another fun opportunity is “Thrilling Thursdays,” an art class for children ages 2-and-a-half to 5 and their parents.
“We’re looking for ideas of what families in Montrose want to do,” Tierney added.
Currently, only about half of the ECFE building is being utilized. A 900-square-foot space was designed with the Head Start program in mind, and Tierney said she hopes the program will be using the space next year.
A roughly 1,900-square-foot area is open for a daycare center to possibly rent. Tierney said they are hoping to find a new or expanding childcare center that has services for infants through preschoolers.
Before moving to the new ECFE building, early childhood programs were at the Montrose Elementary School.
“Definitely there was a space crunch there,” Tierney said. “We were kind of on top of each other.”
Montrose Community Education Director Kim Carlson said she is excited about the possibilities that the new facility offers.
“If it grows, we’ll grow with it,” she said.
To learn more about classes at the ECFE, contact Tierney at (763) 682-8753 or Carlson at (763) 682-8751.