Project Help renovations get underway before ‘Sadd...

Project Help renovations get underway before ‘Saddle Up’

MTSU’s Project Help is taking on a new summer project: remodeling its main facility on North Baird Lane to give teachers and students more much-needed elbow room.

As a result, the Baird Lane preschool programs have temporarily moved across campus to Project Help’s other headquarters, the Fairview Building on Greenland Drive.

“We will be merging our three classes into two and using the Child Development Center classrooms (inside the Fairview facility),” Project Help Director Susan Waldrop explained.

“The changes in the Baird building are divided into three phases, simply because that seemed easier for us to make happen.”

The renovations are occurring while the program also prepares for its annual fundraiser, “Saddle Up for Project Help,” which is set for Thursday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the MTSU Foundation House on West Thompson Lane.

(For tickets and more details about the July 25 “Saddle Up for Project Help” fundraiser, visit or call 615-898-2458.)

Project Help is an inclusive preschool that has served the MTSU and Middle Tennessee communities for nearly 30 years. At Project Help, children who have developmental delays learn and play with those who are developing typically.

Three little cowpokes pause on the playground outside Project Help’s Fairview Building classrooms for a quick publicity photo for “Saddle Up 2013” fundraiser on July 25. (Photo courtesy of Project Help)

Project Help’s progressive preschool serves children from 15 months to 3 years old. “Project Help Prep,” which helps 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds get ready for public school, currently offers a half-day, tuition-only program four days a week.

The center’s staff, which trains more than 150 student participants each semester, works with parents through family-support programs that include workshops, one-to-one interactions and informal training seminars.

The first phase of summer renovations will remodel Waldrop’s office to accommodate six workstations for teachers and co-teachers. It also will include renovating the current copy room, which also houses the media specialist’s work area, into a teacher workroom and supply storage area.

Phase two will reconfigure space near the library for the media specialist and replace all current classroom doors with half-doors to eliminate the need for baby gates.

Both these phases should be completed this summer, Waldrop said.

A third phase, which has a late December/early January target completion date, would redo the current reception area to improve its efficiency.

“This means that for much of the summer, all Project Help programs will be together!” Waldrop said. “This will be a blessing in that we can share and learn from each other.

“At least for the summer, some different folks will be seeing Project Help on a regular basis, which might lead to more understanding on campus for what we do.”

Project Help’s children are in classrooms according to age. The oldest students — those between 2 1/2 and 3 years old — are in the “Red Room” in the Baird Lane facility. Toddlers from 24 to 30 months learn in the “Blue Room,” and the younger children (15 to 24 months) use the “Green Room.”

On Friday mornings, a new one-hour “Mommy and Me” program is being offered for families with babies 4 to 15 months of age to have fun and learn from each other.

In the Fairview Building, “Project Help Prep” also operates a weekday inclusive preschool for families who have children from age 3 to kindergarten. It’s a tuition-based option for children eligible for a public school Individualized Education Program as well as for those who are developing at or above age-appropriate levels.

Once the remodeling is complete, Waldrop and Project Help’s office/outreach coordinator, Kerry Boylan, will move into the office used by “Blue Room” teachers, while the current “Green Room” office will become a physical therapy area for the children. The “Red Room” office will become a small multipurpose room.

Ultimately, Waldrop said, the renovations will enable Project Help to expand to serve more Project Help Prep children, “who, as early- to mid-3-year-olds, will be a nice fit for the enlarged Red Room.

“Our research indicates that late twos and threes can benefit greatly from the interplay in an inclusive program,” she continued. “We’ll have continued opportunities to build more proficiency and interaction into our teaching teams. And accommodating more Prep children will bring in additional money to pay for teaching positions.”

For more information about Project Help, visit

— Gina E. Fann (