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PRE4CLE asks for $5 million in Cleveland's ARPA funds for early childcare center renovations

Ohio JFS Director Matt Damschroder, left, listens in to a preschool lesson from Brittani Woods, right, at Murtis Taylor's Kathryn R. Tyler Center in Cleveland.
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
Ohio JFS Director Matt Damschroder, left, listens in to a preschool lesson from Brittani Woods, right, at Murtis Taylor's Kathryn R. Tyler Center in Cleveland.

Cleveland nonprofit PRE4CLE is asking Cleveland City Council to consider approving $5 million from the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for renovation of at least 25 early childhood education centers in Cleveland. But it's not clear how much success they'll have in getting that funding, with those funds quickly running out.

The nonprofit is asking for the money to combine with about $3.5 million from philanthropic and other sources it’s gathered so far for its Early Learning Spaces program, it said in a news release Tuesday. That program is meant to fund renovations at early childhood education centers to improve their quality and capacity, with 11 learning sites improved or in the process of being improved currently.

Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE’s executive director, has previously said that many of these centers are providing quality education, but some are struggling to stay afloat and keep classrooms open, with difficulty keeping staff due to low wages, and challenges funding building renovations. Some of the facilities are in people’s homes, in strip malls, or other locations that weren’t originally intended to be an educational space.

“The key to attracting families to Cleveland and keeping young people here to start families is high-quality child care,” Kelly said in the news release. “Studies show that parents overwhelmingly want their children in safe, supportive educational environments. We know that our high-quality preschools provide excellent learning opportunities, and it’s time we make the quality of the space match the quality of the education.”

Lovell Custard, president and CEO of the Murtis Taylor Health System, said the Early Learning Spaces program’s renovation helped double their capacity for preschool classes while creating a more “nurturing” and safer environment at their childcare center at the Kathryn R. Tyler Center in Glenville.

“Families have said that the renovations have provided them with an additional level of security and renewed their trust in childcare programs,” he said.

However, the city's overall pot of American Rescue Plan Act money is fast dwindling. Joan Mazzolini, city council's chief of communications, said Cleveland City Council's tracker of ARPA funds shows almost $486 million in funding (of about $511 million) being introduced or approved by Council so far. She said the city has their own tracker showing all $511 million has been assigned to a purpose.

"There are projects that haven’t yet been introduced – that council is pretty sure are coming – that are not included in Council’s tracker," she added. "Also it doesn’t include another more than $20 million for projects that were either introduced and/or passed but Council isn’t certain will move forward for various reasons."

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.