CLEVELAND — On Monday, PRE4CLE kicked off the next phase of its effort to expand access to high-quality preschool to all 3-and 4-year-olds in the city, aiming to level the playing field for the littlest learners in Cleveland.
The Lexington-Bell Community Center is among the first sites to benefit from the new Cleveland Early Learning Spaces Initiative.
The facility, a staple in the Hough Community, has a fresh coat of paint in its classrooms for the first time in 15 years.
"There's only so much money and it's never enough money to go around," said Luanne Peters, Lexington-Bell Community Center Director.
That lack of funding prevented Peters from completing the improvements her facility desperately needed to make a difference for her students.
"Now you're in a warm space, a welcoming space, so you're ready to learn," said Peters. "Our goal is to get our kids prepared for kindergarten."
The beautification efforts at Lexington-Bell, to the tune of $100,000, are part of PRE4CLE’s commitment to renovate dozens of early learning facilities across Cleveland.
"We're part of Cleveland's plan for transforming schools," said Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE.
Kelly said the collaboration of public, private and community partners is looking to raise $20 million.
"We're hoping to reach as many as 80 childcare centers throughout the City of Cleveland and 70 childcare homes," said Kelly.
Like at Lexington-Bell, the facilities would get freshened up with things like new paint and flooring. Larger projects to address issues like lack of natural light, poor ventilation and outdated bathrooms would also be addressed to transform environments for improved education.
"Early learning providers operate on very thin margins; they just often don't have the resources they need to address these problems. It should not depend on where you live to have access to safe and supportive places to learn," said Kelly.
Ward 7 Cleveland City Council Member Stephanie Howse said the improvements will help create vibrant communities across the city.
"How do we really change the trajectory of Cleveland? Early childhood learning is one of those vital steps," said Howse.
Luanne Peters is grateful for the transformation at her community center and the impact it will have beyond the 27 students enrolled there.
"If we can level the playing field in our spots, our community and our city will be better. Our city will be much better," said Peters.