Building for the future: Westfield Washington Schools celebrate expansion of early learning center


School might be out for summer, but work is going on at Westfield Washington Schools.

Members of the board of education, families and educators celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking May 28 for the expansion of Virginia F. Wood Early Learning Center on Tomlinson Road, adjacent to the WWS administration center and Monon Trail Elementary School.

The center opened in 2022 and quickly reached capacity, with 2023-24 enrollment at 330 children. The center provides essential services including daycare for the children of district staff starting at eight weeks old, speech therapy for approximately 120 students, developmental preschool and the pre-K program ‘All Aboard.’

The expansion project will add 13 new classrooms, multi-purpose rooms, offices, storage space and an enclosed playground.

Early Learning Director Marci Derado said the addition will allow the district to accommodate 200 to 230 additional children ages infant through pre-K. Derado said there are approximately 45 to 50 families currently on the waitlist for the pre-K program.

“The district provided childcare for district staff members and also community members since 2005, but that took place in elementary schools,” Derado said. “This building has been here; we’re just finishing our second year. The infants, 1- and 2-year-olds all have to be related to district staff members, and then our 3- and 4-year-olds are community member children and also developmental preschool, which is children who have some kind of learning need. They go through some testing and if they qualify then we provide the support they need.”

Within the new space, Derado said three classrooms will serve infants through age 2 and the remaining 10 rooms will be used for preschool children aged 3 and 4. The addition will also include the hiring of new staff. Required teacher-to-student ratios are one adult per four children for infants; one adult per five children for those children aged 1 and 2; one adult per 10 children for age 3; and one adult per 12 children for age 4.

WWS groundbreaking school board
Members of the Westfield Washington Schools Board of Education celebrate the expansion of the Virginia F. Wood Early Learning Center with a ceremonial groundbreaking May 28.

WWS Superintendent Paul Kaiser said the expansion will benefit not just the students but their families.

“(The) groundbreaking is a testament to our commitment to providing exceptional educational opportunities for our youngest Rocks,” Kaiser said. “This expansion will allow us to better serve our community and accommodate the growing number of families choosing Westfield Washington Schools.”

Derado said she looks forward to no longer having to turn families away.

“I am excited that when parents call us and say they desperately need childcare because they just moved here or their childcare closed or (they lost their caretaker) that we no longer have to say, ‘Sorry, we don’t have space’,” Derado said. “We can now be able to say, ‘Sure, when can we get ready to start?’”

Included in the renovation are plans to upgrade the athletic fields next to the learning center, with significant improvements planned for the soccer, rugby and baseball fields.

Erica Strahm, a WWS parent and president of the Westfield Shamrocks Rugby Club, said expansion of athletic facilities means helping students make connections with their peers on the field in addition to in the classroom.

“Three of my four children play rugby, and as this community has grown and is getting bigger every day, it is important that we offer opportunities to children,” Strahm said. “Connection is a big deal for our children, especially in our country with the mental health crisis going on, for children to be able to build community is so important. One of the reasons I am involved in rugby and in the community is that I want to make sure that there are opportunities for our children to be involved in their community and to be surrounded by friends.”

District officials said the athletic field renovation is an example of the district meeting the needs of its students in both academics and athletics.

“We talk about fields of dreams, and it’s a great opportunity to keep on doing things for our kids,” Kaiser said. “As we look at our buildings and things we are doing for the future, we continue to focus on what we can build for our kids for both curriculum and extracurricular activities. This is a perfect example.”

WWS early learning center kids shovel
Some of the youngest members of the Westfield community take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Virginia F. Wood Early Learning Center. (Photos by Marney Simon)

Westfield Washington Schools’ expansion plans

Westfield Washington Schools is the fastest-growing school district in Indiana, with enrollment of nearly 9,800 students in 2023-24 across six elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school and one high school.

As growth continues, the district has engaged its ‘Destination Westfield’ long-term plan. Expansion plans include:

Transportation Center — Located along Ind. 32 west of Little Eagle Creek, the new center will include parking for 250 buses, driver training stations, six mechanic bays, meeting space and expanded break areas. The center is expected to be complete in June 2025.

WWS Community Center — The district will renovate the old Westfield Washington Public Library at 333 W. Hoover St. The project includes a 27,300-square-foot renovation of the existing building and a 9,700-square-foot building addition. The building is between Westfield Middle School and Westfield High School and will serve the school district by providing event programming space, a culinary arts space and educational space for life skills programming.

Westfield Middle School West — Anticipated for bid this fall and completion in 2027, the 1,500 capacity Westfield Middle School West will help the district offer more educational and extracurricular opportunities for young Rocks. When complete, the district will transition sixth grade to middle school and fifth grade to elementary school, reducing the number of transitions for students.

Midland Crossing Elementary School — Expected to go to bid this fall, the new elementary school will serve 800 kindergarten through fifth grade students on Westfield’s northwest side. The project is anticipated for completion in 2026.

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