The Learning Community officially breaks ground this morning on its new building in north Omaha.
The $4.6 million learning center near 24th and Franklin Streets will serve as a test bed for programs aimed at raising the academic achievement of children living in poverty and facing language barriers.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Mark Evans are scheduled to attend the 10 a.m. groundbreaking.
An artist's rendering of the new building depicts a utilitarian design, with a modern feel and a color scheme of blue, green and gray.
The 20,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open next September, with space for 16 infants and toddlers.
It also will serve as the headquarters for the Learning Community, as a clinical setting to train future teachers and local child care providers, and as a community center where low-income parents can learn parenting skills.
Critics have raised questions about the cost of the new center, which will be built by and leased from the nonprofit Omaha Economic Development Corp. It is projected to cost taxpayers in Douglas and Sarpy Counties more than a half-million dollars a year to lease, or $5.6 million over the 10-year lease agreement.
Kris Carter, a member of the Learning Community Council from north Omaha, has eagerly awaited this day.
Planning for the project has taken three years, trailing a similar learning center that opened this fall in South Omaha.
“There are a lot of hardworking people — a lot of great families and good parents — in the neighborhood who care and want to be involved in the lives and the education of their kids,” Carter said in a statement. “The Learning Community Center of north Omaha is here working with parents, helping them make a difference.”
Site preparation has begun. The contractor is Lund-Ross and the project architect is RDG Planning and Design.
The building expands intensive early childhood education programs launched this year in Kellom and Conestoga Elementary Schools.
Ted Stilwill, chief executive officer of the Learning Community, said “parents and caring adults make a huge difference in a child's life.”
“Here in north Omaha we will invite parents and child care providers to work together with us because we all want to see young children succeed in school,” Stilwill said.
In creating the Learning Community, Nebraska lawmakers tasked it to set up “visionary” learning centers to improve achievement in high-poverty areas.