FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Through the Army Family Covenant's commitment to families, Fort Lewis has marked the beginning of yet another child development center construction project.

Fort Lewis leaders, Clover Park School District administrators, and children from North Fort School Age Center and Madigan Child Development Center participated in a ground-breaking ceremony Nov. 14 at Hillside Elementary School.

"This is a very special day because it marks a very special event," said Col. Cynthia A. Murphy, garrison commander.

This was not only the ground breaking for a new CDC, but also marked the beginning of a new partnership between the U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Lewis and the CPSD, she said.

The construction project, located next to Hillside Elementary School, involves three separate buildings, said Barbara Sporcic, Child, Youth and School Services.

One of them, with a capacity of 135, will be a multi-purpose facility shared in partnership with CPSD.

The school district will use two classrooms to conduct its Early Childhood Education Assistance Program. The rest of the facility will be used by Fort Lewis for its School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills program, Sporcic said.

"This will allow us to provide additional services to our military children," she said.

Deborah LeBeau, superintendent, CPSD, recognized the need for modernization and expansion of the federally owned school facilities.

"This joint-use agreement sets a new standard of collaboration, in the area of facility usage and program integration, between Clover Park School District and those we proudly serve here on Fort Lewis," LeBeau said.

"We are encouraged by the partnering in this program and we anticipate even greater accomplishments for our children," she said.

"We consider it a privilege to serve you, our military and your children," she said. "We are excited about this venture and those in the future as we grow together in providing the best possible services to those who deserve it the most."

In addition to the multi-purpose facility, the project will include a child development center for as many as 232 children, from six-weeks to 5 years, and a third facility, with a capacity of 130, to serve as a middle school and teen center.

The completion of all three facilities will increase child-care capacity on post by about 500 children, according to information provided by Dennis Senftner, deputy director, Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

Following the groundbreaking, Murphy, Lebeau, Walt Kellcy, school board member, CPSD and children representing the child development centers signed an Army Community Covenant.

"This effort is one-of-a-kind in regards to how the school district and Fort Lewis have agreed to do business on behalf of military children and the services provided to them," Murphy said. "We are committed to providing the best that we possibly can for our families and children and everybody involved has given 100 percent to making this happen."

Barbara L. Sellers is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.