Fort Knox announces plans for new child development center
A sign has appeared off Chaffee Avenue near the old Crittenberger Elementary School that has been much anticipated for a while. Originally scheduled to be constructed starting in 2027, construction on the new child development center could begin as early as next year. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. — A sign has appeared on post that reads: “Coming Soon! New Child Development Center.”

The sign stands in an open grassy knoll along Chaffee Avenue for a reason, hinting to where developers plan to build a new child development center. The sign may come as a surprising sight for some at Fort Knox since the new center wasn’t scheduled for construction for years to come.

“It’s been a big point of emphasis for the Garrison,” said Nick Bibelhauser, Fort Knox resident engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District. “This was originally scheduled to be a 2027 project, so it’s gotten moved forward four years.”

Leaders at Fort Knox have voice their concerns about several aspects of the current facility over and over in recent years.

Those concerns have included parking, the lack of a good alternate to outdoor play during inclement weather, and age and design of the building. One person looking forward to the new facility coming online is Stephanie Parris, director of the Fort Knox CDC.

“It will definitely be an improvement in daily operations at the CDC,” said Parris. “With our current facility, the line of sight has a huge impact when we’re dealing with staff that is under LOSS [line of sight supervision] versus [background check] cleared staff.”

According to the March 2020 U.S. Army Child & Youth Services Installation Parent Handbook for Fort Knox, LOSS staff are those whose background checks are pending approval. Until they are cleared through these checks and other requirements, they “are not permitted to be left alone with child/youth.”

The problem comes with how the current CDC rooms were originally designed. Walls stand in the middle of each classroom, preventing a clean line of sight. The solution for now has been to increase the number of caregivers to ensure positive control of children at all times.

“In our current situation, the requirement for employees is at times double or triple, depending on what season we’re in and how many are in our rooms,” said Parris. “In the new facility, the situation will stabilize because the classrooms are open.”

Rayceil Oggs, director of Fort Knox Child & Youth Services, agreed.

“In the new facility, there will be one big open room with no blind spots,” said Oggs. “Whereas, in the current facility, there are walls that separate everything. You basically have a classroom on one side, and one on the other side.”

Parris offered an example of some of the difficulties that caregivers face at the current facility.

“We’re a development center, so we’re engaging with the children to develop their cognitive skills,” said Parris. “With some of the layouts, caregivers may have to stop an activity, gather all of the children, and bring them over to the diaper changing table just to change a diaper because they can’t see or hear the children.

“The new facility will allow the children to continue doing whatever activity they’re doing while the caregivers change a diaper.”

Garrison leaders, with the blessing of Child & Youth Services, has identified the old Crittenberger Elementary School as the site for the new facility. Planners from the Directorate of Public Works are in the very beginning stages of finalizing the design, said Bibelhauser; a design he expects Fort Knox to kick off around the end of the month.

Part of the plan involves a programmed construction amount of about $30 million, he said. “That is something that can change, however.”

Fort Knox announces plans for new child development center
The Army Corps of Engineers have come up with a concept of what the new child development center could look like, laid over the old Crittenberger Elementary School, which serves as an administrative building for now. Garrison leaders chose the site for a number of reasons. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers) VIEW ORIGINAL

The facility is expected to span about 38,000 square feet and include at least one playground. When complete, it should house up to 338 children ages 0 to 6 years. Bibelhauser said the contract could be awarded by August of 2023.

“The old CDC was kind of piecemealed together,” said Bibelhauser. “One of the very first projects I did when I first started with the Corps of Engineers about 14 years ago was build what they called the CDC Connector Project — kind of a small walkway that connected the two older buildings.”

As part of being a state-of-the-art facility, the new building will feature modern energy saving measures; measures that have made Fort Knox a Department of Defense leader.

“It will be mandated to be a [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Silver-certified building,” said Bibelhauser.

Oggs said the new facility will offer another feature that has been lacking in the current building.

“At School Age Services, you have a big activity room,” said Oggs. “At the new facility, it will have a large activity room as well. We always struggle here, especially in wintertime, and on rainy days. Whereas if we had an activity area, we would still have a place for the kids to be active.”

While the new facility is expected to offer more than socialization and safety for the children, and as a result their parents, it will also offer more for the caregivers.

“We are maintaining the standards that we are required to meet, including safety standards, but in a facility not designed to meet those standards,” said Parris. “When we can be in a facility that is designed to help meet those standards, it will lighten the load.”