Inside the $4.5 million renovation of Head Start space in Lincoln

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The $4.5 million renovation of an early childhood education center in Lincoln is well underway.

Located at the intersection of K Street and Antelope Valley Parkway, the Home for Head Start will be a new facility for children 5 and under from at-risk backgrounds, according to officials from Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.

Community Action is conducting a campaign to fund the project.

The space was previously used for adult education, and with $2 million received so far, CEO Heather Loughman said Community Action has already begun to transform it to focus on early childhood education.

“Our goal now is to make it into a space conducive to serving young learners,” Loughman said. “So that means things like putting bathrooms off of the classrooms to make it easy for kids to access bathrooms during the day. It means adding more indoor and outdoor play spaces.”

Community Action had been operating in half of the building until last year, when it purchased the rest of the space from Purdue Global.

After completing the first round of renovations in May, the nonprofit was able to use the rest of the space and begin transitioning the building.

The organization said there are already 197 children and their families participating in the Head Start programming, which provides services to children who are facing the highest barriers to success.

Eligibility for that program is 100% of the poverty level, which for a family of four is about $27,000 per year.

“We’re also looking at other factors that may impede a child’s ability to reach success in school,” Loughman said. “That could be experience with homelessness, experience with foster care, etc. So, we’re really looking to enroll those children with the highest level of need.”

Community Action also plans to offer services like financial and nutritional education for families, and even adult literacy classes to the community.

The campaign has received money from donors across Lincoln, including Ameritas, a Lincoln-based insurance company.

Liz Ring Carlson, who leads community relations at Ameritas, says she values the work Community Action has done in the city.

“Education is a primary area of focus for our philanthropy, and the work they do with kids 0 to 5 is outstanding,” Ring Carlson said. “And we really believe that a good education sets a child up for success in life, and when we heard about the campaign, we wanted to do something to support them, and so we made a generous donation of $75,000 to help get them started.”

Community Action plans to begin the next phase of renovations by early 2023 and is hoping to complete them by 2024.

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