West Chicago district announces new site for Educare

Posted3/19/2010 12:01 AM

After fundraising and engineering delays, West Chicago Elementary District 33 and Educare of West DuPage will move ahead with constructing a $10 million early childhood center at a new site.

The Educare building will sit on 4.2 acres at the corner of Forest Avenue and Pearl Road at the south end of Pioneer Park in West Chicago. Ground breaking is targeted for mid- or late summer.


Officials said they hope the new center will open by summer 2011.

"It's an excellent site. We are really excited because it is close to Pioneer Elementary, so it will be very easy to access for families and kids we'll be serving," said Theresa Hawley, president of Educare of West DuPage board of directors and a member of the Gustafson Family Foundation board.

Educare of West DuPage will offer intensive classes for children 5 and younger and will require heavy parent involvement. It will be created and operated by a partnership among District 33, Lifelink Corp., Positive Parenting DuPage and the Gustafson Family Foundation.

Initially, officials hoped Educare would open this year on a vacant lot owned by District 33 just north of Indian Knoll school. But Hawley said that area is in unincorporated DuPage County and neighbors worried Educare's septic system and well plans would adversely affect their neighborhood.

"We just thought it was best to find another site," she said. "In addition, with the fundraising environment being what it's been in the last couple of years, it made more sense to give ourselves more time to raise more capital before putting a shovel in the ground."

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In addition to the Gustafson foundation, the The Buffett Early Childhood Fund and the McCormick Foundation have contributed millions to Educare's startup and about 80 percent of funding is secured, Hawley said. The J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation also promised a $2 million donation.

District officials said the McCormick Foundation will pay the starting salary for Educare's local executive director. The Gustafson foundation has pledged $250,000 a year for operational expenses and the Buffett foundation will fund ongoing technical support and staff training.

Even with District 33's recent staff and program cuts, which officials said are partially due to falling state funding, Hawley said she thinks Educare will succeed.

"We have this kind of balance of private, federal and state funding, so we feel confident we can weather any storm," she said.

Educare of West DuPage will serve 150 children who are at risk of having academic difficulty when they reach school age. That includes some children of teen parents and from households that do not speak English, Hawley said.

Only children living within the boundaries of District 33 will be eligible to attend following an application process.

Parents who want to learn more about District 33 and Educare can attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. April 22 at Pioneer School, 615 Kenwood Ave., West Chicago.