It's been 25 years in the making, but now Santa Monica College and the city of can really get to rearing a "world-class" education center for infants and toddlers.
In a moment Superintendent Chui Tsang said was cause for celebration, the college district's Board of Trustees on Tuesday night unanimously approved a memorandum with the city for the $12.5-million project that will serve both as an education facility for students to observe infants and toddlers, and as a childcare facility.
With the MOU signed, officials said they can dive into designing blue prints for the teaching facility that will also include space for parenting workshops and early childhood-related research.
"We've been having conversations and meetings for quite some time… but we can’t really begin to spend money until we have [this] agreement in place," said Katherine Muller, the college's dean of external programs.
The Early Childhood Education Center will be built on public property at the Santa Monica Civic Center on the corner of Main Street and Pico Boulevard as the facility undergoes renovation and expansion, slated to start in spring 2013. Research nonprofit Rand Corp., located just across the street from the Civic Center, will also be a partner in the project.
The City Council has committed $5.56 million in General Fund dollars to the Early Childhood Education Center. It will accommodate up to 100 infant, toddler, and preschool children, and will include classroom and observation facilities, according to a memo from district staffers.
For its share, the college will pay $7 million using bond proceeds earmarked under Measure S, which was approved by voters in 2004.
"This has been a long time coming, we're looking forward to revving up our engines and moving forward," said Julie Rusk, Santa Monica's human services manager.
Several trustees and those vested in the project, such as Irene Zivi of the Santa Monica Child Care & Early Education Task Force, joked that they worried the center would ever actually be built in their lifetimes.
"For me personally, this has been a 25-year journey," Zivi said.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman Margaret R. Quiñones-Perez said she remembered first talking about the project when her own kids were preteens and how awesome it would be to have such a center. Now, it will be her grandchildren who might actually get to use it, she said.
Officials said they expect to hire consultants along the way to help develop a business plan for the center. Architectural renderings will have to make their way through various city advisory boards before they're ultimately approved.
The timeline appears depressingly long, said Trustee Louise Jaffe, but is necessary to afford the college and the city time to establish a center on par with the 499-seat, grand Eli and Edythe Broad Stage Theater, built at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center in 2008.
"The goal for this should be... that we really try to make it of the best absolute quality imaginable," Jaffe said.