Child-care center opens at HCC

April 16, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

When 3-year-old Adam Barnhart arrived at Hagerstown Community College's new Children's Learning Center, he couldn't crawl or hold his head up for long because of a muscular disorder.

Eight months later, he's made dramatic strides thanks to his teachers and the encouragement of his peers.

"In the end, it was the children who taught Adam to crawl from one end of the room to another. It was the children who taught my son how to take his first steps," Jo Ellen Barnhart said.

Barnhart spoke Friday at the center's official grand opening.

Years in the making, the center's main purpose is to accommodate students who need child-care in order to attend classes, said college President Norman Shea.

Two out of three students at the college are over 25.

Although students get top priority, the center also is open to college staff and the community.

Barnhart did three years of research and lobbied the college's Board of Trustees for a child-care center.


But advocates kept coming back to one problem - the $2 million for building a center would make rates unaffordable for most parents.

Then a solution came.

Space became available in the former cafeteria and student center because of the new $9 million Learning Resource Center, which is under construction.

"It made it all possible because we didn't need the bricks and mortar," Barnhart said.

The college saved another $100,000 by doing the renovation work itself, said Phil Snodderly, director of facilities management and planning.

A $42,000 grant from the Washington County Gaming Commission was used to equip the center and its playground.

The savings allowed the center to hire highly qualified teachers who can manage the integration of children with special needs.

The children who don't have disabilities also benefit from the experience, Barnhart said.

They see that Adam has trouble doing things that come naturally to them, such as walking. They also see he is like them because he, too, sometimes has trouble sharing his toys.

Jennifer Harbaugh of Hagerstown, who is pursuing an associate's degree in human services, praised the center staff for working to improve the language and social skills of her son, Antonio, 3.

"Every day we pull up and he says, 'This is my school.' I've never seen him as excited about anything," Harbaugh said.

The center has enrolled about 40 students so far with room for 27 more, said Director Terry Kitchen.

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