Sep 21, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterWyoming first lady Carol Mead spoke in Riverton at the dedication ceremony.
Teachers at Child Development Services in Riverton said they will be able to help more Fremont County children now that they officially have moved into their new building at 1205 E. Lincoln Ave.
"There's a lot more space," preschool teacher Erica Harker said Tuesday during the facility's grand opening ceremony. "We love the size."
She gestured toward her new classroom, one of four in the new $1.1 million CDS building that was built with agency funds and donations as well as a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Wyoming Business Council.
CDS, an organization that provides early intervention special education services to Fremont County children ages birth to 5, has worked for several years to consolidate its Riverton operations into one campus. Now, the older CDS building at 1202 E. Jackson Ave. will be used by office staff and the CDS "baby team," while older children will receive instruction and therapy in the new structure nearby.
Karen Smith, a special education teacher at CDS, said the working space in her wing of the new building also provides more space for instruction.
"My room is twice as big," Smith said. "It was like a little cubby hole before. It worked, but we like this."
There are more private rooms for speech therapy and counseling, and one large area of the building has been set aside for physical and occupational therapy.
"It's a great facility for kids," therapist Summer Lemley said. "There's a lot more space, and it's nicer space."
Community members and parents who attended the grand opening also were impressed by the structure. They enjoyed refreshments while wandering the halls, peeking into classrooms and talking to staff members who were available to answer questions.
CDS executive director Lori Morrow said residents and parents have been integral to the success of CDS in Riverton.
"You are some of our best advocates," Morrow told the crowd during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
She also thanked community members, donors and government partners who worked to raise money for the building project, and she congratulated the architects and contractors who handled construction "easily, quickly and painlessly."
Mayor Ron Warpness also was instrumental, she said, as he worked with city staff to make sure the effort was successful.
Warpness, who spoke at the ribbon cutting, said he was happy to help in the process to bring "a beautiful new addition" to the Riverton community.
"I remember when this was a vacant lot with a burned-out facility on it," Warpness said, referring to the Christian Food Storehouse that once stood on the property.
He noted the changes that have taken place in the area of child development since he worked with blind and physically handicapped students years ago.
"At that time child development programs were usually in the basement of a church," Warpness said. "There were few college-trained staff, and there weren't many physical therapy and physical education specialists."
Since then, people have grown to understand the importance of early intervention, said Wyoming Sen. Jim Anderson (R-Glenrock), who said government funding for child development services has gone up in recent years.
"You get a $7 to $12 return for every $1 spent on a child this age," Anderson said during the ribbon cutting. "This is all a system. It begins at the beginning and goes through life as we become lifelong learners (and) successful citizens. ... You should view yourselves as critical parts of the whole."
He encouraged parents to get involved by contacting local legislators about funding for CDS and other groups that "put children forward on a path that leads them to success."
"I urge all of you to get engaged," Anderson said. "Step up, be brave and be committed."
Wyoming first lady Carol Mead, who also spoke Tuesday, has chosen to focus on children's issues during her husband's time in office, in part because of her personal experience struggling with literacy at an early age. Mead said the support of learning professionals helped her overcome those issues as a child.
"So I can tell you first-hand the difference it makes," Mead said. "(Groups like CDS) help the youngest and most vulnerable among us meet their full potential. ... And now you have a beautiful building to do that in."
Teachers moved into the new structure late last year, and students began taking classes there after Labor Day this month. For more information about CDS, call 856-4246.
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