Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

What makes a high-quality preschool or out-of-school-time space?

Lots of things, including natural light and fresh paint; engaging spaces where children can play, read, or try on hats and costumes; a good heating and cooling system; easy access to fully equipped outdoor play spaces; and modern, functional bathrooms.

Unfortunately, a 2011 report from the Children’s Investment Fund (CIF) revealed that a number of early education and out-of-school-time programs were located in problematic spaces. Deficiencies ranged from holes in the ceiling and leaking toilets to poor air quality and outdoor play spaces that were really just parking lots.

Thanks, however, to the advocacy work of CIF and others, the Massachusetts Legislature used the 2013 Housing and Community Development Bond Bill to create the new $45 million Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital Fund

Administered by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, the capital fund provides grants to help programs pay for badly needed renovations and repairs.

“These EEOST capital grants are the first step in the transformation of learning environments for low income children across Massachusetts,” says Mav Pardee, program manager at the Children’s Investment Fund. “We look forward to working with EEC and the Baker administration to ensure that additional providers can create facilities that support children’s healthy development and education.”

Last September, 20 nonprofit child care providers applied for grants. And last week, EEC announced the first ten grant awardees.

CIF provided us with a list of the recipients and their projects. They are:

Beverly Children’s Learning Center
Grant: $1 million
The center has outgrown its current location and purchased a former medical building that it plans to renovate. Once this is done, the center will be able to serve an additional 24 children.

Catholic Charitable Bureau of Boston
Grant: $750,000
Located in Lynn, the center will use its grant to update the mechanical systems; replace ceilings, flooring, and the roof; and improve accessibility.

Community Teamwork
Grant: $500,000
The grant will help this Lowell organization remove a worn out mechanical system and replace it with a more efficient, cost-effective, and comfortable heating and cooling system.

Ellis Memorial and Eldredge House
Grant: $800,000
Ellis will use this grant to renovate its historic South End building: expanding capacity in early childhood education and enhancing after school program space. Once the project is complete, Ellis will be able to serve an additional 32 children.

For Kids Only Afterschool
Grant: $400,000
For Kids will use its grant to develop space for a new Youth in Motion program that promotes health and wellness among low-income children from Revere and neighboring communities. The new space will serve 120 children.

Markman Children’s Programs
Grant: $1 million
Markman will use the grant to help finance a 9,355 square foot addition to its main program site, adding five classrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen, as well as developing 4,000 square feet of outdoor play space. The expanded center will serve 264 preschool and school-age children.

Merrimack Valley YMCA
Grant: $800,000
Located in Lawrence, the YMCA will renovate and expand its building to enhance program space, improve security, and serve an additional 40 children.

Tri-Community YMCA
Grant: $800,000
The YMCA purchased the Southbridge building it had leased for 15 years, and will renovate the space, enabling the organization to serve an additional 19 preschool-age children.

United Teen Equality Center
Grant: $400,000
Located in Lowell, the center serves low-income, at-risk young adults ages 16 to 24, providing education and job training programs. Because half of these young adults are also parents who need child care, the center is using its grant to build a new space for a child care center.

Valley Opportunity Council
Grant: $1 million
A community action agency located in Chicopee, Valley Opportunity will demolish a cramped, dilapidated building and replace it with a new center that will house high-quality educational services for young children, enabling the organization to serve an additional 35 kids.

Want to learn more about applying for a grant? Contact the Children’s Investment Fund.

And please let the Legislature and the Baker administration know that this investment in children’s spaces is timely and important. Learning and playing in safe, clean, appealing, and functional spaces helps show children that the adult world is committed to their success.