Lena Pope Home plans new building for preschool and counseling

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- Brenda Rios was eager to get her daughter into the Lena Pope Home's early childhood center because it touts a research-based curriculum and small classes and is staffed with certified teachers.

The Early Learning Center, which opened last fall, is full, with 48 children. But in about a year, enrollment is expected to more than double to 115 in a new building planned for property near the Lena Pope Home campus on Sanguinet Street.

A yearlong capital campaign has raised $9 million in donations and pledges for the new building and to pay for a 2012 expansion of the Lena Pope charter school. Officials say they want to raise $12.5 million to help more children and families and reduce waiting times for services. The facilities are inadequate and undersized, Executive Director Todd Landry said.

Much of the money will be used for a new 43,326-square-foot building to house the preschool program and counseling center, to be built at Diaz Avenue and Sanguinet Street. It will also have space for classes and programs and a half-acre outdoor classroom. Officials hope to break ground on the project this summer and move in by the summer of 2014.

In the new building, the early learning center will serve infants and toddlers, starting at 6 weeks old. Services are now provided for ages 2 to 5.

"For working families who need a quality place for their children to be cared for and educated while they're at work, there is a tremendous shortage. In the ZIP code we're in and the four surrounding ZIP codes, there is not a single accredited early learning center that accepts child care subsidies for low-income families," Landry said.

Rios' daughter Lulu Reyna, 3, is thriving at the center.

"She can count to 20, knows her alphabet and she recognizes her name. That speaks volumes to me as a parent that the school is kind of ahead of the curve. I cannot wait for the new building," Rios said. "For her to want to go to school every day and feel really safe and feel loved and be getting the education and curriculum, it's a five-star place for me."

Family counseling and therapy are provided in leased space at Vickery Boulevard and Hulen Street. Limited space can result in a three- to six-month waiting time for families that need play therapy, Landry said.

The additional space is designed to provide more privacy and space for waiting. Officials expect to be able to help 1,000 more clients each year.

The capital campaign funds are being used to cover costs to expand Chapel Hill Academy, a charter school in south Fort Worth that opened in 2008 in a renovated Food Lion grocery.

Enrollment has swelled from 100 to 500 students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, with a waiting list of 350. The expansion included six classrooms for fourth and fifth grades, a gym, a cafeteria and a science lab.

"We didn't want these kids to have to go ahead and go to school in portable buildings so we went forward with that project," Landry said.

The campus serves primarily low-income families. It met the 2012 federal adequate yearly progress standards and is rated recognized, the second-highest of the state's four academic accountability tiers.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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