New Loves Park facility to help after preschool programs cuts - – Rockford’s News Leader

New Loves Park facility to help after preschool programs cuts


State funding cuts leave Rockford-area children on waiting lists and parents scrambling to find preschools. But a new facility in Loves Park could change that. The Harlem Community Center just broke ground on the Hand-n-Hand Child Care Center. The facility will hold 185 children, 100 will be just for preschool.

"They can get a head start on their schooling and they can succeed later in life," says Eric Alderman.

That's why Alderman is excited about the expansion. He knows how important it is especially for his daughter Bella. She is already an early childhood student at the Harlem Community Center. He's seen a difference in her and hopes other kids get the same opportunity.

"She's come leaps and bounds. She's learned her alphabet, her spelling, her words. She's learned how to interact with the other kids," says Alderman.

The new facility is on Forest Hills Road by the skate park and ball diamonds. The Harlem Community Center beat out a couple of hundred applicants to get a more than $4-million dollar federal grant for the facility.

"Loves Park ranked 23rd in municipalities for need. There are over 3,000 children under the age of 5 in our communities and there are less than 300 licensed center slots for these children," says Shannon Scheffel, Harlem Community Center, executive director.

The Harlem School Board president Heather Kelly says the district has had to turn children away from its early childhood programs. When Illinois funded Preschool For All, Harlem had 140 children in that program.  Now that the state stopped paying for that program the district can only support 40.

"We are reaching out as a school district to form these community partnerships so we can provide where funding has been cut or reduced so we can be creative about providing these services to our children," says Kelley.

The facility should be open by the spring of next year. It will take children starting at 6-weeks-old up until kindergarten. HCC will also be looking to hire 30 people to staff the new facility.

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