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New Early Head Start center will open in Lincoln with space for 72 infants and toddlers
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New Early Head Start center will open in Lincoln with space for 72 infants and toddlers

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Lincoln will get a new full-day Early Head Start center this fall for 72 children from low-income homes, which will be housed in a renovated space at 26th and O streets.

The Community Action Partnership, which manages federal Head Start funds for Lancaster and Saunders counties, got a nearly $1.7 million annual grant to expand the number of children it serves in Lincoln to 459. The partnership will serve a total of 493 children, including 34 it now serves in Wahoo.

The new center, which will open this fall at 2615 O St., will have space for 16 infants as well as toddlers up to age 3.

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Head Start is open to families with children up to 5 years old whose incomes are at or below 100% of poverty, which for a family of four is $26,500. The longtime federal program prioritizes children in foster care, with disabilities or whose families are homeless or receive public assistance, said Vi See, Community Action’s executive director.

Early childhood education was one of the four initiatives identified by Prosper Lincoln, a community effort begun six years ago to make the city a better place to live, and at a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said the new center will help fill a need.

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“Access to high-quality early childhood education forms a critical step on a child’s pathway to successful adulthood,” she said. “Ensuring this access for all children, regardless of their family’s level of income, is our community’s shared priority.”

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Head Start offers both in-home and center-based care for children. In 2016, Community Action opened two full-day, early childhood centers in Lincoln and later added a third for children up to 5 years old. The new center -- for children up to age 3 -- will have nine classrooms and employ 30 people, including lead and associate teachers, teacher aides and other support positions.

Head Start is free for families, and in addition to providing quality early childhood education, it gives parents the ability to work or go to school, See said.

The grant pays for about 80% of the cost, and Community Action needs to raise about $61,000 to buy cribs, cubbies, tables, chairs, books and other educational materials to ready the nine rooms for children in the fall.

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Speedway Properties, which owns the building at 26th and O streets, will remodel it with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, LED lighting and various security features, said Clay Smith, the group’s general partner.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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Local government reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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