A ceremony to break ground for Sedalia School District's new Loftus Early Childhood Development Center was held Saturday morning on the Smith-Cotton High School campus, 2010 Tiger Pride Blvd.

“We are blessed to be able to add yet another top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art facility to our district, and what better place to place this building than right here on the beautiful Smith-Cotton High School campus,” remarked Sedalia School District Superintendent Steve Triplett, who served as emcee for the event.

Principal Joel Sherman said he was excited for the new facility and the opportunity to operate out of a building that is specifically designed for early childhood development for ages 3-5.

“Right now, we have 200 - 250, so that's probably what we'll start off with. It's 80 percent special education and we also have a Title program,” said Sherman, who was named principal this past spring. Sherman took over for former principal Grace Kendrick, who now serves as early childhood process coordinator for District 200.

Board President Dr. Jeffrey Sharp addressed the 60 or so people gathered on a chilly Saturday morning for the ocassion at the site, located north of the Heckart Performing Arts Center.

“The new Loftus Center was sparked by the generous donation of the Loftus family,” Dr. Sharp noted. “Many times we focus on sports, music, JROTC, robotics and STEM programs. This center will enhance the evaluation and instruction of children who have physical and developmental challenges. We'll be able to expand our program to many other students through the Loftus family's generous donation. This building is another example of the partnership between the patrons of the Sedalia 200 District, generous private donations and prudent fiscal management from the Board of Education.”

Twelve years ago, voters approved a levy for the new Smith-Cotton High School and a dozen elementary rooms. “Through private donations and refinancing of some of these loans, we've been able to have several other building structures over the last 10 years,” Dr. Sharp said. “We've spent $8 million on a stadium complex, $4.5 million addition to the high school, a $4 million FEMA shelter, remodeling of the ninth grade infill, remodeling the old cafeteria, and this $11 million project. We are now partnering with the City and Parks Department about the expansion of the new aquatic center with eight racing lanes and a diving well for $6 million. The original $29 million levy has been increased by at least another $33.5 million in construction, all without additional tax increases.”

Dr. Sharp concluded that “we in are deepest gratitude to the Loftus family for this generous donation.”

Dr. Daniel Loftus spoke for the family, noting that the whole project is incredible. “And it's all because of the people of Sedalia and their proud tradition and the way they take care of each other,” he said.

The reason the Loftus family made the donation to make the child development center a reality is because “Sedalia is our home. You never forget your home,” said the 1980 S-C graduate. “Your favorite place to eat pizza and your favorite place to go driving around. The people here are just good people, and were always good to us, and we want to do what we can do in some small way,” Loftus said.

The Smith-Cotton Marching Tigers made an appearance in uniform to start the festivities Saturday morning under the direction of Grant Maledy.

S-C JROTC Cadets presented the Colors as part of the opening ceremony.

In addition to the Loftus family, the Sedalia 200 School Board of Education was seated on the stage that was set up in the field.

Septagon Construction of Sedalia is the general contractor for the project.