Plans are underway to construct a new Meramec Valley R-III Early Childhood Center building, which would combine the district’s three preschool programs.

A $4 million state-of-the-art Early Childhood Center, located on a 7-acre parcel of land opposite the middle school and Zitzman Elementary parking lots, is slated to be ready for the 2018-19 school year.

Reporting at the July 18 school board meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Ed Hillhouse said the project is on schedule.

The district expects to take the building plans to the city planning and zoning commission for review Aug. 22.

Hoener Associates, the project architect, is scheduled to issue drawings and specifications to bidders Sept. 8.

The school board anticipates reviewing bids Oct. 12, awarding a contract for the project at its Oct. 18 meeting and issuing a notice to proceed on Oct. 30.

The idea of blending the prekindergarten programs in one environment started with the late Superintendent Randy George more than a year ago, Hillhouse said.

The new building became possible when voters approved an $11.75 million bond issue in April 2017.

The new preschool building will serve students ages 3 to 5 and will contain five or six classrooms, an enclosed playground, special education rooms and a gross motor room for physical development.

The district currently has three types of preschool programs, including early childhood special education, preschool for at-risk students and tuition-based preschool. The combined programs will serve 183 students in the upcoming school year.

Dr. Stephanie Bechard, federal programs coordinator, and Tina Pittman, Meramec Valley Early Childhood Center (MVECC) director, helped define the learning areas of a new combined building.

The structure will be built on property that the late Doris Hoffman deeded to the district. Hoffman, who died in 2000 at age 76, taught elementary school for 50 years — the last 48 in Pacific schools.

At the time of her retirement in June 1997, she was teaching kindergarten at Zitzman Elementary.

The property is the second largest gift ever bequeathed to the district. In 1997, Carrie Gross left the district $1.5 million to be used for Pacific High graduates who wanted to become nurses.