The old South Omaha Library will become a hub for helping disadvantaged youths under a 10-year, $1.12 million lease agreement approved Thursday night by the Learning Community Council.
The educational cooperative also took separate action to commit $500,000 to support intensive preschools at two high-poverty schools in north Omaha through a partnership with the Omaha Public Schools.
The preschools for 3- and 4-year-olds will include a host of support services for children and parents and will serve as clinical training sites for future teachers.
Both projects are major steps for the Learning Community, which state lawmakers created to help disadvantaged youths in Douglas and Sarpy Counties and part of Washington County.
The projects are aimed at improving academic achievement for students who live in poverty, speak little English or transfer schools frequently.
The library building at 2302 M St. has long been eyed by the council for its central location in the poor immigrant neighborhoods of South Omaha. It will be used for teaching parents skills to help their children overcome obstacles to academic achievement. That could be anything from teaching immigrants English to helping parents understand how school works and how to get involved in their children's education.
The 7,000-square-foot library is located just off of the main 24th Street strip. It includes on-site parking and a space for outdoor activity, and extra parking on an adjacent corner.
The lease, approved on a 14-1 vote, is with the HELP Foundation of Omaha, which will be the landlord of the building. The registered agent and president of the nonprofit corporation is listed by the secretary of state as Anil Agarwal of Omaha.
Councilman Mike Pate was the sole no vote, saying the lease price was too much for the property. Council member Nancy Jacobson said the deal wasn't perfect, but “I think it's time to move ahead and get in.”
Base rent and operating expenses start at $8,543 a month, rising to $10,209 a month in the 10th year. The council has an option to negotiate five-year extensions after that.
The HELP Foundation will make improvements to the property before the Learning Community takes possession next fall, with the Learning Community contributing $550,000 toward the cost of the interior improvements.
White Lotus Group and Ronco will design and build the improvements, with RDG serving as architect and consultant. The HELP Foundation will pay $200,000 for mechanical, plumbing and exterior improvements.
The north Omaha preschool project, meantime, aims to address families in chronic generational poverty. It calls for OPS to provide eight full-day preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds at Kellom and Conestoga Elementary Schools.
Staffed by certified teachers, paraprofessionals and family-support workers, the classrooms will be aided by support teams trained to meet the needs of students living in poverty.
The classrooms will serve as a clinical training site for Metropolitan Community College's child care associate-degree program next fall and most likely Creighton University education students in 2014, Learning Community CEO Ted Stilwill said.
Stilwill compared the arrangement to medical students gaining experience at a teaching hospital.
The preschools will borrow techniques from the successful Educare program, with a goal of better preparing children for kindergarten.
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