Learning center opens in South Bend

Long Beach building and architectural firm Erik Fagerland and Associates recently completed work on South Bend's new Early Childhood Learning Center, which was singled out by state officials as a model project of its type.

SOUTH BEND - South Bend School District has recently moved staff into a newly completed Early Learning Center located on the South Bend School District campus across from the high school.

Funding for the new building came from a community block grant. The grant application was completed by Laurie May, director of Family Services for the South Bend School District, and Kathy Spoor, director of the Pacific County Health and Human Services department.

Community block grant applications can only be submitted by counties or cities. In November 2000 the Pacific County Commissioners Pat Hamilton, Bud Cuffel, and Jon Kaino agreed to submit the grant application on behalf of the school district. The community block grant received was $750,000 with the South Bend School District contributing an additional $70,000 to the project.

The new building is approximately 7,000 square feet with four classrooms, a multi-purpose room, kitchen, staff room, storage, and two adjoining playgrounds.

The building houses early childhood programming, including childcare for children 1 year to 6 years of age, preschool for children 3 and 4 years of age, and kindergarten enrichment. Children from all economical backgrounds are served with affordable fees. Childcare subsidies are accepted and some preschool services are offered for no charge to low-income families.

Kindergarten enrichment is free to all participants. It provides a full-day kindergarten option for families. Children attend regular kindergarten for half of their day, and the second half of their day is spent at the early learning center doing enrichment activities (art, music, physical activities) that relate directly to what they are learning in kindergarten.

Preschool is available four days per week for 4 year olds and between two and four days per week for 3 year olds. Preschool services are free for all low-income families and affordable for families who are not low-income. Transportation, meals and supplies are provided free of charge to all children in preschool.

Children services are available to all families in the community. The center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Again, childcare subsidies are accepted.

South Bend School District has provided early childhood preschool services for over 15 years and childcare for six years. The district has a strong commitment to providing the highest quality education for all of its students and knows that an early start in preschool helps the children get a jump start on their education. Participation in early childhood programming helps children to become fully prepared to learn when they enter elementary school. A strong foundation in the early years provides for a stronger experience throughout their school career.

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