Learning center

Rassekh gift, other donations boost Early Learning Center campaign | Education

The 38,000 square foot early learning center planned by Council Bluffs Schools is one step closer to reality after the school district received a donation from a local supporter.

The Council Bluffs School Board gratefully acknowledged and accepted a $100,000 donation from Dr. Behrouz and Christiane Rassekh at its meeting on Tuesday. The Rassekhs also generously helped renovate and equip the district’s TradeWorks Academy program, which launched in the fall of 2019.

“Dr. Behrouz and Ms. Rassekh have demonstrated their investment in the youth of our community in so many ways,” said Superintendent Vickie Murillo. “They are true partners in supporting projects that help students reach their full potential. Most notably, their generous financial contribution in 2018 sparked the campaign to build the Behrouz and Christiane TradeWorks Academy Learning Centers at Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson High Schools.Their latest major donation to the Early Learning Center will also have a lasting impact and is really appreciated.

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Courtesy of Chris Ruhaak of Heartland Photos & Design via Council Bluffs Community School District

According to Chris LaFerla, executive director of the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation, the donation brings the total amount raised for the $20 million construction to $16,380,000. This includes $5 million of a $7 million grant from the state, $5 million of school district revenue Secure an Advanced Vision for Education and Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, $4 million from a primary donor anonymous, $1.04 million from the Iowa West Foundation, $1 million from another foundation, $100,000 from American National Bank, and numerous other donations from private foundations, corporations, and individuals. The district plans to set aside $2.24 million to create an endowment to help cover operating costs.

The Council Bluffs Schools Foundation is raising funds for the project, along with Southwest Iowa Nonprofit for Collective Impact.

The Early Learning Center, described by the state as an exploratory child care and early learning project, will serve as a model for early childhood learning. The goal, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education, will be to demonstrate how to deliver public school-delivered early learning in large and small school districts across the state. A University of Kansas consultant will work directly with the school district on the program review.

“Council Bluffs schools look forward to partnering with the Iowa Department of Education and the University of Kansas’ Juniper Gardens Children’s Project consulting team to serve as a model to demonstrate the impact and scalability of a public school district early learning center that serves infants, toddlers and preschoolers,” said Murillo. “We are excited to serve as a model site for the State and are proud to have been selected by the Governor for this project.

“We are addressing a need in our community while developing best practices in school-based child care,” she continued. “We look forward to seeing how this will ultimately allow other Iowa school districts to successfully serve young learners in their communities as well. Through collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education and Juniper Gardens, we will co-design a tiered support system that meets our community’s early childhood needs, as identified by a needs assessment.


The early learning center will be built on vacant property the school district owns at North Eighth Street and Avenue G.


“I think public schools are in a really unique position to provide child care,” LaFerla said.

One of the reasons is the cost of childcare in private providers.

“By partnering with the school district, we’re able to spread that cost a bit and provide comprehensive services,” LaFerla said.

The facility will allow the district to serve an additional 200 children, school officials estimate. That will likely come down to 175 preschoolers and 25 to 30 infants to toddlers in daycare, LaFerla said. The school system currently offers preschool education in 32 elementary school classrooms in the district, but many children are on a waiting list to enter its preschool program. The center will have a total of 14 classrooms, including 11 preschool classes for 3 and 4 year olds, two for toddlers and one for infants. Each will have the appropriate staff to student ratio for the age level served.

“We really think this will transform Council Bluffs,” LaFerla said.

Children served in the center will be part of an active learning environment where they can explore, interact and engage with their peers and adults in a stimulating physical environment, the district says. The Early Learning Center will use the same curriculum and assessment tools as other preschool classrooms in the district.

The Highscope program will be delivered by licensed teachers in age-appropriate class sizes. In the preschool classes, there will be a teacher and a preschool assistant to serve 16 children. In the infant and toddler rooms, there will be eight to 12 children, depending on the age of the children.

There will be a large motor skills room and a smaller one for younger children, providing children with indoor play areas, according to Roger Slosson, project manager for BVH Architecture. Outside there will be three play areas, again for different age groups.

There will also be a security vestibule, offices, kitchen, teachers’ work rooms, storage rooms, a nursing room and a multi-purpose room that can be used for meetings, trainings or as a bomb shelter. storm.

The architects plan to have specifications ready in time for a hearing on February 8. The project will be auctioned from February 28 to March 24, and a contract will be awarded by mid-April.

“We hope to start construction in May or June and open in August 2023,” LaFerla said.