The Learning Center, located in Charles City, is about to begin renovations to their new facility in the North Grand Building.
The Learning Center (TLC) is a non-profit organization that works to ensure that young children are prepared to enter school. The organization helps support the emotional and intellectual development of children as young as six weeks through 5th grade.
Plans to renovate the North Grand Building, a former school building part of the Charles City Community School District, were approved by the school board on Monday evening.
Justin DeVore, communications director for Charles City Community Schools, explained that part of the North Grand Building is owned by the Charles City School District, while the other half is owned by developer Shawn Foutch.
The Foutch portion of the historic building, which is located at 500 North Grand Avenue, is being converted into 40 housing units according to DeVore. Since the other party is still in the district, TLC must bring their ideas and plans to council for approval.
TLC is in an agreement with the school district and has a five-year lease with an option to purchase. TLC has been working on this project for a little over two years now, called âGrand Planâ.
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TLC director Pam Ost and Dan Levi of Cedar Falls-based Levi Architecture presented their latest plans with the project on Monday.
Ost said she, Levi, and their buildings and grounds committee have met on several occasions to review designs and set a timeline to determine costs and options. She added that all options were being explored to meet the needs of the children.
Ost explained that finding solutions for snowy days and for social distancing were important issues they were examining with the renovations. Ost added that they have worked with the library and the art center to expand the opportunities.
âI think this continues to validate the need and timing of this project for all of us,â Ost said on Monday.
Levi shared the plans and details of the renovation with the board, guiding them through the key points of the plans.
âWe’re looking at his idea of ââvalue engineering on options to lower overall cost. The design hasn’t changed substantially from anything that has been presented to you so far. We’re just looking at the details and some systems, âLevi said Monday.
Levi presented a floor plan, showing the idea of ââturning larger rooms into smaller rooms, which would separate children into more age-appropriate groups.
The second highlight was the presentation of the layout plan of the playground, which is divided into zones for children of certain age groups. Ost explained Thursday that the plan was to make the playground use the area’s natural resources, such as trees and hills.
The latest highlight presented to the board was the transformation of the old girls’ locker room into a commercial kitchen, according to Levi. Ost explained Thursday that the kitchen would allow them to serve nutritious meals and buy in bulk, which would save costs. She added that the kitchen could also be used when other organizations want to use the space.
The cost of the renovation is not yet determined, according to Ost, but they hope to have a figure brought to the school board by November. Ost has been working on securing grants to fund the construction process and recently received the Investing in Iowa Childcare grant, which amounts to $ 750,000.
Ost says their current location on 404 North Jackson was getting too small for them and it was time for them to grow up. The new center will allow them to double the number of children they can accommodate.
âI feel like the community engagement we’ve seen that people have a better understanding. That as people want to go back to work, we can meet the needs of the children, âsaid Ost.
According to Ost, Superintendent Mike Fisher wanted to help facilitate the expansion of child care services for Charles City. After meetings on the topic, TLC was able to tour the North Grand building and found it to be a good fit.
Ost says the success TLC has had with this project is due to the support of the community, the school district, other local communities and the government.
âI would just like to say that TLC is very happy to be at this stage of this project knowing that we will be open by the middle of the year 2023,â Ost said.
Abby covers education and public safety for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email him at [email protected]