In a ceremony befitting generations of children who will be served by the facility, the Sedalia School District 200 broke ground Saturday morning for the new $10.5 million Loftus Early Childhood Center.

The new center will be named in honor of Richard and Mary Loftus whose family donated $1 million for the construction of the building. It will be constructed on the grounds of Smith-Cotton High School and will serve children in six Pettis County school districts.

“We are both proud and honored to be here today representing our family,” Dr. Dan Loftus said during his remarks. “Our parents knew the value and importance of education and they learned these things from you – the people of Sedalia.”

Loftus, his brother Dr. Richard Loftus, and Richard’s wife Joyce attended Saturday’s event. Also present were Sedalia 200 Board of Education members, district administrators, former Sedalia 200 Superintendent and current state Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, and representatives of Septagon Industries and Porter Berendzen & Associates P.C. Co-op students and their parents used golden shovels to help in the groundbreaking.

“We are very pleased with the turnout on what is a cold but beautiful day,” Sedalia 200 Superintendent Steve Triplett told the Democrat after the ceremony. “We are all very thankful for the good people of Sedalia and Pettis County whose children will be served by this facility.

“We are also extremely grateful for Richard and Mary Loftus and their family who have given back to the community where they lived,” he added. “… and to the Board of Education who understand the importance of early childhood education and what it means to our students.”

Board president Dr. Jeffrey Sharp, who spoke on behalf of the board, also expressed his gratitude to the Loftus family and the residents of Sedalia and Pettis County. Sharp noted in his remarks that since the passage of the levy for the construction of Smith-Cotton High School 12 years ago, the district will complete more than $33 million in additional buildings and projects with no additional increases to taxpayers. Those projects include Smith-Cotton Stadium, an addition and completion of classroom space to Smith-Cotton High School, and a $4 million FEMA shelter on the Smith-Cotton Junior High campus.

With Saturday morning’s groundbreaking, the Loftus Early Childhood Center will join those projects. Sharp said these projects are “not only for the Sedalia 200 School District but for the entire community.”

The Co-op provides free services for children with disabilities and education to parents through the Parents As Teachers Program for the Sedalia 200, Green Ridge R-VIII, La Monte R-IV, Pettis County R-V (Northwest), Smithton R-IV and Pettis County R-XII (Dresden) school districts.   

More than 200 students are served at the co-op this year, according to Pettis County Co-op Principal Joel Sherman. The new facility, expected to be completed for the 2020-21 school year, will allow for more students to be served.

“Today is an exciting day for Sedalia and Pettis County,” Sherman told the Democrat following the event. “To have a place built specifically with the needs of our students in mind will help so much in making it easier to work with our kids.”

The design of the 40,000-square-foot facility by the firm of Porter, Berendzen & Associates, P.C., has been planned with student needs in mind. The current facility opened 29 years ago and is located in converted classroom space at Sedalia Middle School.

Former Co-op Principal Grace Kendrick worked at the center for 28 of those years before her retirement in May.

“Today is really more than I can put into words,” Kendrick told the Democrat. “Me and so many others who have worked at the co-op have dreamed of this day for years. We are so grateful for the generosity of the Loftus family and the community for making this dream become a reality for our students.” 

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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