At-risk children in Lincoln soon will have new opportunities to receive high-quality, research-based instruction and care thanks to a new Educare center that will be built next to Belmont Elementary School.
Educare partners broke ground today on the new facility, which will provide an effective early learning environment for up to about 200 at-risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Lincoln after it opens in late 2012. Educare partners include the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Lincoln Public Schools, University of Nebraska and the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.
“Great things can happen when good people work together – and that’s what Educare is all about,” said Susan Buffett, chair of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund. “By breaking ground on Educare of Lincoln, we’re saying that every young child deserves an equal start in life.”
Educare partners also announced a $500,000 leadership gift from the Lincoln Community Foundation toward the Educare center. Educare will cost a total of more than $10 million; about $5.5 million, including the new gift, already has been raised by the University of Nebraska Foundation.
“The Lincoln Community Foundation appreciates this wonderful gift that Susan Buffett is making to our community and we are pleased to support it with one of the largest grants in our history,” said Barbara Bartle, president of the Lincoln Community Foundation. “Improving early childhood development and education will have a lasting impact in Lincoln. Our $500,000 leadership gift is made on behalf of Sheila Dickinson Dinsmore Graf, Kenneth J. Good and Richard Thoene. These three generous benefactors expressed an interest in early childhood education and will be pleased that their gifts will help build Lincoln’s future.”
The new Educare center – Lincoln’s first – will be connected to Belmont Elementary, 3425 N. 14th St., via a $2.4 million addition to be paid for by Lincoln Public Schools (LPS). LPS also will pay for maintenance and utilities for the facility. The Educare center will be modeled after the 13 other Educares around the country, including two highly successful centers at Kellom and Indian Hill elementary schools in Omaha. Most Educares are built adjacent to elementary schools to reinforce the message that the time from birth through the primary years is a critically important learning period for children.
Lincoln’s Educare will serve about 150 children in its first year, with the potential to grow to nearly 200. It is expected to bring about 70 new jobs to the city in the form of teachers and staff.
Educare centers are specially designed, full-day, year-round early learning schools that require highly trained teachers, low adult-child ratios, robust parent and family engagement activities and rigorous evaluation processes. Independent evaluations have shown that at-risk children who participate in five full years at Educare centers arrive at school on par with average kindergartners – regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Educares also are catalysts for change – serving children and families first while also functioning as “showrooms” in which policymakers, business leaders and others learn about the value of investing in the early years.
Early childhood education is one of the highest priorities for the University of Nebraska, and earlier this year, the university announced a founding gift from Buffett to establish the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, a multi-disciplinary research, education, outreach and policy center dedicated to the development and success of children from birth to age 8. The Buffett institute focuses especially on children who are vulnerable because of poverty, abuse, or developmental, learning or behavioral challenges.
Through the Buffett institute, the university will be an ongoing partner in Nebraska’s Educare centers, providing assessment resources as well as graduate teachers from its early childhood education programs.
“The University of Nebraska, through its Buffett Early Childhood Institute, is delighted to be a partner in the development of Lincoln’s first Educare center,” said NU President James B. Milliken. “We have significant history and expertise in early childhood education and we are well-positioned to leverage our experience to help transform the lives of our most vulnerable children. I believe the Buffett Institute will establish a new model for the engagement of public higher education in early childhood – one in which we put our resources to work to solve a great challenge facing our state. This is a truly exciting day for the University, the city of Lincoln and, most importantly, the Nebraska children and families who will benefit.”
Marilyn Moore, associate superintendent of instruction for LPS, said: “Lincoln Public Schools is especially pleased to have this option for our earliest learners: an environment that will support them and their families during those early, tender years, when they are growing physically, mentally, cognitively, emotionally and socially. Our children will benefit from this program for their entire lives, and so will the community.”
Community Action Partnership is the Head Start and Early Head Start grantee, serving 758 children and their families in Lancaster and Saunders counties. Community Action has a long history of providing developmental and educational services to the neediest children and families in Lincoln. Partnering with Educare will increase the availability of full-day services for these children whose parents are working or attending school full-time.
“Lincoln’s youngest and neediest children and their families deserve the highest-quality care and services possible, and we have no doubt that Educare Lincoln will strengthen our capacity to serve these families effectively,” said Aaron Bowen, Head Start director and chief operating officer of the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties. “This project is one of the most significant developments in Community Action’s 46 years of leading Head Start programming in our community.”
In addition to Lincoln’s Educare, three other centers around the country are under construction or will break ground this year, and another nine are in various stages of development.