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posted: 12/26/2012 5:30 AM

Keeneyville Dist. 20 gets $1.6 million grant to build preschool

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Keeneyville Elementary District 20 will get a state grant of more than $1.6 million to build an early childhood education center aimed at meeting the needs of its poorest preschoolers.

It will be housed at Greenbrook Elementary School in Hanover Park, with four classrooms, a literacy center and space for early childhood and parent education programs.

Construction costs are estimated at $1.8 million, and District 20 will pay the $200,000 not covered by the grant, which the district had been waiting on almost a year.

"The most important thing is we are going to be able to meet the needs of a larger portion of the age 3 to 5 population who cannot afford to go to preschool," said Gary Ofisher, operations director.

District 20 is the only school district in the state getting part of $45 million in grants distributed through Gov. Pat Quinn's "Illinois Jobs Now!" capital construction program. The other 13 recipients announced this week are all private day-care centers.

District 20, which serves portions of Hanover Park, Roselle, Keeneyville and Bloomingdale, is also the only recipient in DuPage County.

Ofisher said he believes District 20 was chosen because of its "tremendous need" because 80 percent of students at Greenbrook receive free or reduced-fee lunches.

The new center will double the district's capacity to serve preschoolers, from 60 to 120 children. Two of the four new classrooms will potentially be dedicated to children with special needs, Ofisher said, and they will be served in one of two morning and two afternoon sessions.

District 20's grant proposal included letters of support from local elected officials, including Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig and state Rep. Michelle Mussman.

The proposal also included pledges from the Bloomingdale and Poplar Creek public libraries and the Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg, which said they will collaborate with the center to provide community-based programming.

Ofisher said that will include bringing a bookmobile to the early childhood education center ever week.

"They will have a significant lending program where students can get a new book every week, take them home and immerse themselves in using the library systems," he said.

Officials said they will start as soon as next month on the building planning, and hope to break ground on the center in the summer or fall of 2013. The district aims to have the center open in late summer or early fall in 2014.

More than 200 organizations applied for the grants.

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