Helping handsPublished 12:01pm Thursday, October 4, 2012
Foundation, youngsters jump-start child care center
A lot of little helpers started a big push in Austin’s early childcare.
Thirteen of Apple Lane Child Care Center’s students helped break ground Wednesday afternoon for the 17,000-square-foot Early Childhood Education Center expansion on the southwest corner of the Riverland Community College West building in Austin.
“This is really, truly going to be a wonderful partnership,” said Kent Hanson, Riverland’s interim president.
Riverland will begin converting 17,000 square feet of its West building to house the childhood center, which will serve about 200 full-time and 200 part-time children ages 5 and younger. An additional 3,000 square feet of landscaping and parking improvements on the southeast corner of the west campus will also be part of the project.
Riverland, in partnership with Hormel Foods Corp. and The Hormel Foundation, secured more than $3 million for the project.
Hanson, who has worked in higher education for more than 21 years, said the kind of public-private partnership which enabled this expansion to happen is rare.
“I’ve never seen anything like the partnership Riverland has with Hormel,” he said.
The project, spearheaded by general contractor The Joseph Company, Inc. of Austin, is expected to wrap up next May. While Apple Lane’s services will expand to include more of a pre-school curriculum as well as improvements across the board, Apple Lane Executive Director Shannon Hart said she’s hoping to partner with Riverland educators to bring early childhood education students from the college to work under internships and mentorships.
“You can really see the commitment of the community to education,” she said. “It’s all about the people, after all.”
Hormel Foundation Chairman Gary Ray said the project is encouraging as Austin leads the way in public-private partnerships to improve community education.
“Education is one of our pillars,” he said.