An open house celebrating the new Cheryl Schlessman Bennett Children’s Center was held Friday, Sept. 28, with three generations of family members in attendance. Colorado College’s new children’s center is named in memory of Cheryl Schlessman Bennett ’77, an education major who was passionate about children’s welfare and taught elementary school in Colorado.
Construction of the new $2 million children’s center was made possible by a gift from the Schlessman family. Schlessman family and friends in attendance at the event were Lee Schlessman ’50 (Cheryl’s father), Susan Schlessman Duncan ’52 and Jim Duncan (Cheryl’s aunt and uncle), Bill Bennett (Cheryl’s husband), Eric Bennett (Cheryl’s son), Sandy Garnett ’75 (Cheryl’s sister), Mick Fredericks ’76 (Cheryl’s cousin), Deb Angell ’74 (Cheryl’s cousin), and Peggy Christie ’77 (Cheryl’s college roommate) and Alex Christie.
The new 9,000-plus square-foot center will accommodate 64 children, from infants to preschoolers, nearly doubling the number that the former children’s center could hold.
Beth Dovenspike, director of Cheryl’s Center, and Sandra Wong, dean of the college and dean of the faculty, both spoke at the open house. “At Colorado College, we often talk about enabling our students to become life-long learners. As we think about our own childhoods, many of us realize how much our earliest social and learning experiences mattered,” Wong said.
She added that the center, which provides child care for Colorado College’s faculty and staff, offers an opportunity for learning to begin in a rich and healthy environment. “The center creates the kind of community we value. It attracts faculty and staff to CC, and builds connections as children grow up together and share friendships,” she said.
Colorado College has begun work on the new Cheryl Schlessman Bennett Children’s Center, which will be located at 909 N. Nevada Ave., just slightly south of the Children’s Center’s current location at 931 N. Nevada Ave. Work is scheduled to be completed by late August.
The new facility will accommodate 58 children, from infants to preschoolers, nearly doubling the number of children currently enrolled in CC’s Children’s Center. Construction of the Cheryl Schlessman Bennett Children’s Center is funded by a gift from the Schlessman family in memory of Cheryl Schlessman Bennett ’77, an education major who was passionate about children’s welfare.
The current center, located in a retrofitted house with confining interior spaces, cramped rooms, and numerous stairs, is less than ideal for young children, said Chris Coulter, director of facilities services. The new children’s center will have a long, low bungalow profile. The single-story building will feature six classrooms, with two classrooms for each age group; a multipurpose room; library; snack area/kitchen; space for nursing mothers; and a teacher resource room. The children’s center will open to a grassy area to the east, away from Nevada Avenue. Outside features include a rubber soft-fall area, winding tricycle paths, and a community garden with planter beds for the children.
Sustainability features include hydronic radiant heat flooring in the infant spaces, numerous east-facing windows and dormers to allow ample ambient light into the classrooms; natural gas hydronic heating throughout the facility; dual ballast light switching and occupancy sensors; integration with the campus Building Management System for optimal indoor air quality and reduced energy consumption; all LED lighting, interior and exterior; high performance glass and window frames; and the inclusion of mechanical system commissioning including building envelope thermal imaging to insure the facility operates as intended. Total indoor square footage is 10,706, with 9,249 square feet of usable, ground floor space, Coulter said.
In order to accommodate the new building, two Colorado College-owned houses were demolished. CC worked with Habitat for Humanity at the houses, located at 210 and 214 E. Cache la Poudre St., to salvage items such as windows, doors, mirrors, hardware, and other finish features to donate to ReStore, Habitat’s local resale outlet which sells reusable and surplus building materials to the public.
CC also worked with the Colorado Springs Fire Department, allowing them to use the buildings for fire drills prior to the buildings’ demolition.
The house at 901 N. Nevada Ave., is not going to be demolished. The northern exterior walls have been removed, and the house will be completely renovated, with new construction attached to the northern face to expand the building and create the new Children’s Center.
The architectural and contractor firms working on the project are both local businesses.
The current Children’s Center will be converted into short-term housing for faculty and staff.
The 8-foot-tall metal butterfly sculpture, donated by Laurel McLeod ’69 and her husband, Jim Allen, is an appropriate image for the center.
McLeod, the former vice president for student life and later special assistant to the president, purchased the butterfly last fall at an auction sponsored by the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs. The “Butterfly & Friends” event is a community-service initiative created by the Rotary Club to raise awareness and funds to serve children and promote the arts in local schools. Participating artists contribute by transforming large-scale metal butterfly “templates” into works of art. Each transformed butterfly sculpture is then auctioned off, with more $100,000 being raised in the first three years of the program.
McLeod’s butterfly sculpture, titled “Doing Yoga with the Rotary,” was painted by local artist Kat Tudor, ‘77; her husband, Bob Tudor, created the whimsical design, in which the drawing on each side of the butterfly’s wing is a mirror image of the other.
McLeod wasn’t sure where to put her newly purchased sculpture when Debby Fowler, CC’s development officer for stewardship, suggested the Children’s Center. McLeod immediately knew that was the perfect location for it, as the Children’s Center is a place she deeply values. The sculpture was installed in early summer, once the ground was prepared for the base, and is located outside the fence on the north side of the center, where it overlooks playground equipment and a painted cow.
McLeod was a member of the first committee that sought to establish an on-campus children’s care center; as a single mother and the first CC woman administrator to have a baby and continue working, she felt such a center was vital to recruiting and retaining quality staff and faculty. (A second incarnation of the committee did succeed in getting an on-site children’s center established in 1987.)
McLeod took her younger daughter to the Children’s Center for several years. “The quality of care was amazing, and education was part of the curriculum,” she said. She recalls linguistics classes, developmental psychology classes, and drama classes working with the staff of Children’s Center. “It’s just a great place for creative development,” McLeod said.
It’s the creative development aspect that makes the site so perfect for the butterfly sculpture: The Children’s Center provides a safe, nurturing cocoon for the children, and encourages a creative metamorphosis for each child.
The next butterfly auction will be held Sept. 17 at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort; for more information go to: http://www.artsandfriends.org/Register.htm