Opportunity Center celebrates ‘big ideas’
LEXINGTON—Anyone familiar with old Wal-Mart stores before they became super centers can still detect a resemblance in the exterior of the Dawson County Opportunity Center.
But inside the doors of the 64,000 square-foot tan building on Plum Creek Parkway in Lexington is a whole new world ready to be revealed to the public.
Lexington’s Early Learning Academy and Parent Student Resource Center opened in the south end of the facility in March 2010 marking the end of the first phase of renovation.
Completion of Phase II came in January when Central Community College began hosting classes in the middle portion of the building.
“When a project like this is done, you always breathe a sigh of relief,” said Jen Wolf, executive director of Dawson Area Development. “Then you look ahead to the next big idea.”
DAD was the force behind the grant funding to pull the Opportunity Center project together.
The first part was made possible through a $512,200 neighborhood stabilization grant that DAD secured from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
Another $208,898 grant from DED helped offset the nearly $1 million cost of the second phase of renovation.
“We’re calling it a regional center,” Wolf said. “If it hadn’t been for the grant funding, the Opportunity Center would have solely been a Lexington project.”
The Early Learning Academy brings together three separate preschool programs that were previously scattered across Lexington.
Preschools formerly located at Tyson Fresh Meats, Bryan Elementary and Morton Elementary were consolidated into a single Early Learning Academy.
“It’s certainly beneficial for everyone involved to have the entire program together under one roof,” said Early Learning Academy director Bob Ripp.
The preschool classes, Ripp said, had outgrown the spaces they were in and by moving to the Opportunity Center, the Early Learning Academy was able to expand from 170 students to 230 currently enrolled.
“That number could increase to 250 by the end of the school year,” he said.
Eight full-time early childhood specialists serve 3- and 4-year-olds in half-day classes four times a week.
The program provides a play-oriented, structured learning environment with academic objectives designed to enhance each child’s development.
It includes eight classrooms, an indoor play area, an outdoor play area and a cafeteria.
“It’s really a win-win situation for everybody,” Ripp said.
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