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Sacred Heart debuts new day care and gym

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Monsignor Edward Sadie first came to Sacred Heart Basilica in 1980, the parish consisted of two undersized school buildings, a church and a forest of parking meters.

Since then, Sadie has expanded the church, added on to Sacred Heart's school buildings, added a satellite program for Wheeling Jesuit University's graduate program, and acquired and developed about 15 properties in downtown Charleston.

Late last month, the parish opened the Sacred Heart Pavilion, its new state-of-the-art day care center and gymnasium on the corner of Quarrier Street and Leon Sullivan Way.

"We have plans to further expand our grade school, and eventually hope to have a Wheeling Jesuit undergraduate program on campus," said Ralph Hoyer, parish attorney and construction adviser for the new, 18,000 square-foot center.

"One day, we will be able to have a child six weeks old through graduate school, all within five blocks."

John Jarrett, whose Jarrett Construction Services handled both the expansion of Charleston Catholic High School and Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, said the new facility was built in just seven months. The $3.5 million facility came in on time and within budget.

The insulated concrete structure is designed for the maximum in heating and cooling efficiency and safety, Jarrett said.

Access to the building is by swipe card only, and Jarrett said 23 security cameras keep an eye on the campus, the four day-care classrooms, gymnasium and all entrances and exits. "We can tell you at any minute who's inside the building, and who's outside the building," said Hoyer.

"We've had very few problems," echoed Sadie. "But we want to be careful." The building was designed with the safety of children foremost.

That safety factor extends to the gymnasium, which features the parish's first-ever regulation basketball court. Jarrett said the high-tech flooring material is laid over a shock-absorbing layer of foam to lessen the chance of injuries.

Sadie has already gotten requests to use the state-of-the-art gym. Parish officials plan to use the gymnasium for parish events and take advantage of the regulation court.

"We have an extensive Catholic basketball league that has always been strapped for a place to play," said Hoyer.

But it is the day care facility that parish officials consider the gem of the facility.

Sacred Heart already has a pre-school program for children 3 years old and over. Parish officials decided while planning the facility that what they really needed was a day care center for children between the ages of six weeks and 3 years.

"Charleston has such a huge demand for day care," said day- care director Dawn Snyder. "You could open one downtown tomorrow, and it would be full."

Nine children have enrolled in the program since the day-care center opened Oct. 28, but the center's four classrooms have a capacity of 52 kids.

"We were late [in the season] getting started," said Sadie. "A lot of kids were enrolled somewhere else who had intended to come here."

Staff are confident the center will eventually be filled.

Snyder said everything about the day center has been planned with the safety, physical and emotional growth of the children in mind. Fifteen adult staff members will be on hand, and each child will have the same primary care teacher during their stay at the center.

Each classroom has its own child-sized sink and toilet, and furnishings were specially picked with safety and learning in mind. There's an outside playground especially designed for little hands and feet and the educational needs of small children.

The facility even has its own laundry and kitchen facilities. Snyder said the menu is designed to provide healthy nutritious food, and features dishes like couscous and salmon.

"The kids love it," Snyder said.

Parish leaders said the facility will be an important component for the local community and help meet the needs of local parents and children.

"Every day, about 1,000 kids are dropped off [at Sacred Heart]," Hoyer said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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