Construction is underway on new Eudora Early Learning Center; school district’s program, with unique features, to serve students countywide

photo by: Contributed

A rendering of Eudora's Early Learning Center's new entrance.

Construction is underway on Eudora’s new 140-student Early Learning Center that will give Eudora — and potentially Lawrence and other Douglas County communities — a place for preschool-age children to learn, grow and create memories all under one roof.

The facility is being constructed in the Eudora school district’s West Resource Center, 1310 Winchester Road, which houses the school district offices as well as some classrooms for district students in alternative or online classes. When complete, the building will additionally house eight new early-childhood classrooms consolidating the district’s preschool offerings under one roof starting in the 2024-25 school year.

“This is a great opportunity to really help the community. There are not a lot of opportunities in the district in education for 3- and 4-year-olds. And so we really wanted to look at what we can do to help,” said Kristen Lewis, Eudora’s new Early Learning Center director.

The previous structure of early-childhood education in Eudora had students attending classes spread out in pods at Eudora Elementary. Eudora’s director of school improvement, Heather Hundley, said that it was a meeting of the minds during community engagement sessions among those in Eudora working in early-childhood services that led to the decision to combine services in one place.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

An excavator is pictured at work on May 15, 2024, at Eudora’s new Early Learning Center. Construction includes renovating existing spaces and building a new parking area and playground.

“We invited anyone passionate about early-childhood education. Our childhood care providers, teachers, community members, Douglas County folks … and we started talking about connecting resources,” Hundley said.

The community engagement sessions first addressed how to strengthen the connections between the school district and the existing resources but eventually led to a greater solution of making more resources available from the district itself, Hundley said.

The district was in a position to devote $2 million to the learning center project after the community and the Eudora school board approved a $40 million dollar bond issue for district improvements in May of 2023, as the Journal-World reported.

The district will also be expanding its offering to include extended hours for after-school programs and will be year-round and remain open throughout summers to help working parents with extended learning options for children, Lewis said.

“That is a really big thing. Even during spring break when the district is closed, we will be open,” Lewis said.

The district has also worked to make the program budget friendly for parents, Hundley said.

photo by: Contributed

A rendering of the Eudora’s Early Learning Center’s future multipurpose room converted and renovated from the existing gymnasium and lunchroom.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

A gymnasium prepared for renovation at Eudora’s School District Building, 1310 Winchester Rd. The gym will be updated as part of the district’s new Early Learning Center program.

“We are trying to make it very affordable for people so that more people can utilize the program and to create a foundation for children in their education,” Lewis said.

Families who live within the district will be charged $250 a month for the all-day program, and families living outside the district will be charged $500 a month, Lewis said. The extended hours, which go as late as 5:30 p.m. for working families, will cost an additional $50 for in-district kids and an additional $100 for those outside the district.

At maximum capacity the new classrooms could house around 140 students, with more than 80 students already enrolled. Students are primarily from Eudora, but some students travel from Lawrence or throughout the Douglas County area.

In addition to the eight new classrooms, the renovation will update the building’s gymnasium, parking area and playground along with a new entrance dedicated to the Early Learning Center, Hundley said.

“The new playground is amazing, very hands-on, active,” Lewis said.

photo by: Contributed

A rendering of the Early Learning Center’s new playground.

The combination of fun and education is one thing Lewis said she is most excited for as she has recently ordered a large array of educational manipulatives, or educational toys, for students to use in the new classrooms along with the new Frog Street early-childhood curriculum.

“I am excited about all the new things,” Lewis said. “The curriculum is so engaging, all the colors, it is so inviting.”

Hundley thinks that the new manipulatives in combination with the expertise of the teachers will make for an ideal learning environment. Lewis said the teachers too are excited to be in the new space.

“Their world is centered around the children. They are not sitting at a desk. They are going to dive in and see what the children are doing. They are going to be in the thick of it, engaging them,” Lewis said.

photo by: Contributed

A rendering of Eudora’s Early Learning Center lobby.


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