The Walled Lake Consolidated School District recently had a groundbreaking ceremony for what has been described as a state-of-the-art early childhood center.

The Walled Lake Consolidated School District recently had a groundbreaking ceremony for what has been described as a state-of-the-art early childhood center.

Photo provided by Mark Edwards

WLCSD breaks ground on ‘state-of-the-art’ early childhood center

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 17, 2020


WALLED LAKE — When Cathy Kochanski was hired as the assistant superintendent of learning services for the Walled Lake Consolidated School District in July 2019, there was an instant perk that came with the job.

Approximately two months prior to her hire, voters had already approved a 30-year, $316 million bond known as the WLCSD Building, Infrastructure and Equity Bond.

Of the 10,439 residents voting, 7,219 approved it.

It was the largest education-related bond to ever pass in Oakland County.

Among the multiple projects the bond supported is the development of an early childhood center facility.

On Oct. 28, the district had a groundbreaking ceremony for the early childhood center, which is located at 13 Mile Road, near M-5 in Novi.

When complete, the center is expected to be 38,385 square feet and have 16 classrooms.

The initial cost in the planning document estimated the project at $12 million.

According to a press release, the district’s early childhood center will feature a natural environment theme throughout its design.

The center is slated to open in the 2022-23 school year.

The age range of the children who can attend is preschool through age 5.

The ECC will offer a combination of tuition-based, Head Start and Great Start Readiness Program options.

Kochanski anticipates the center to be “breathtaking” and “state of the art.”

“Taking on the job of the development with the team of this early childhood center has been really exciting,” Kochanski said. “When I found out I got the job, and I knew this early childhood center was sort of like on the docket, I told my husband, ‘I’m excited about a lot with this new job, but that early childhood center is something that I’m thrilled about.’ … The team welcomed me on last year, and I was excited to look at setting that vision for an inclusive preschool community in our early childhood center.”

Kochanski said there isn’t currently a dedicated facility in the district that houses early childhood programs, and “it’s going to be wonderful to have them under one roof.”

She anticipates a “beautiful layout” with “flexible and state of-the-art” furniture.

“We’ll have inclusive play stations and learning spaces for children to collaborate,” Kochanski said. “We will be looking at it through the lens of inclusion, so we will have special education students as well as general education students — all those programs being housed under that roof.”

Kochanski said the center has been envisioned “for about the last 20 years.”

There has been plenty of time to think about what the center could be, and she elaborated on more of the details.

“We’ve done a lot of intentional planning around spaces — the collaboration, the curriculum — in order to ensure that our kids will be set up for success,” Kochanski said. “We (want to) bring those families in early with us and see those kids off to a really successful start to their K-12 careers.”

Superintendent Ken Gutman acknowledged those who gave the district a chance to realize its aspiration.

“At a time when so many are experiencing the challenges of the global pandemic, Walled Lake Schools is grateful to be able to look toward our future and plan to serve our early learners in a state-of-the-art facility,” Gutman stated in a press release. “We thank our community for overwhelmingly passing the May 2019 bond that paves a bright future for our children.”

Kochanski has been in education for more than 25 years, with the bulk of her career being spent working for the Troy School District and Rochester Community Schools.

Prior to accepting the position with Walled Lake Community Schools, her most recent job was as the principal for Baldwin Elementary School in Rochester.

As someone who has been in the education field for more than two decades, aside from the benefit for children, Kochanski can also appreciate what the early childhood center could mean for staff members within the district.

“Another neat hallmark of this building is it’s not just going to be a facility for our youngest learners, but we also know that we can use it to provide professional learning opportunities for our staff all across the district,” she said. “We have some really nice teaching and learning spaces for adults that will also be part of the building and the facility. It’s all about growth — growth for our youngest learners, but also growth for our teaching staff and adults that work with the kids.”