Early Childhood Learning Center dedicated

NEW ULM – Martin Luther College (MLC) dedicated its new Early Childhood Learning Center on Sunday at the corner of 5th North and Highland Avenue with a brief service and open house.

The 15,500-square foot training center, which was expected to cost $2.8 million, was funded with donations. It will allow MLC to meet professional education requirements of its early childhood majors, whose numbers have doubled from 62 to 112 in the past five years. As a result, the previous facility did not have adequate capacity to offer training experience.

The new facility will also provide continuing education of in-service early childhood teachers and caregivers. Video technology including live and archived video, podcasts and webinars, will be used for distance learning.

The center is open to families with young children regardless of religious affiliation. It includes two preschool classrooms, an infant and toddler room, art studio, movement room, and a college classroom. Although programs are currently full, future enrollment information is available.

Early childhood family education is the fastest-growing area of service in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which operates MLC. The number of children enrolled in WELS preschools nationwide has doubled over the past decade, from 6,241 to 12,327.

The former learning center, which was built as Highland Manor nursing home in 1958, was torn down in June 2012. New construction began in July 2012. The former learning center was considered too small to meet the changing needs of the college and community, according to MLC leaders. Remodeling the former building was not considered cost effective, and it was not usable to enroll infants and toddlers and was short on technology capabilities.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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