Groundbreaking Kicks Off Child Care Expansion, Initiative to Recruit WorkersPosted on May 11, 2022
Somerset, PA (May 11, 2022) – After nearly two years of planning and a solid year of fundraising, The Learning Lamp will “break ground” on a major expansion of its child care center in Somerset—a key component of a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach to combatting the region’s child care crisis.
The formal ground breaking ceremony, which will be held Tuesday, May 24 at 1 p.m. at The Learning Lamp Center for Children at 451 Aberdeen Drive in Somerset, will include a visit from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Acting Secretary Neil Weaver. The DCED’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) and the tax credits afforded to participating businesses played a significant role in funding this important project.
The Child Care Works for Somerset project aims to repurpose wasted space in The Learning Lamp’s building, a former health club with idle racquetball courts, outdated saunas, and rusting locker rooms. The groundbreaking outside is symbolic of the work that has already begun inside—which includes demolition of gym floors and removal of a glass observation area. The reconfigured space will give way to new classrooms and play areas. The 18-month renovation will maximize unused space in the building and improve upon existing classrooms with new handwashing stations and appropriately-sized restrooms that better meet the needs of little learners. Natural lighting will be added throughout the structure and more energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems installed. The center’s overall capacity will increase to 134 children and result in the hiring of up to 27 new staff.
“We spent five years and conducted an exhaustive search for a larger, more appropriate space for our Somerset center,” explained President & CEO of The Learning Lamp, Leah Spangler, Ed.D. “When we still hadn’t found an alternate location, we bought the building in October of 2020 with the goal of repurposing the space to increase available child care slots in the area. We also wanted to improve the space to better reflect the STAR 4-level care our children and families have come to expect.”
The Child Care Works for Somerset campaign resonated with the larger community after the state-ordered shutdown during the pandemic. The child care industry was hit hard and has struggled to recover, leaving parents scrambling to find care so they can return to or remain in the workforce. State lawmakers Senator Pat Stefano and Representative Carl Metzgar responded with a proposed PA Department of Education Job Training and Education Programs grant of $400,000. Additional contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations, including a $500,000 matching grant from 1889 Foundation, brought in sufficient funds to kick off the first two phases of the project. Due to post-pandemic shortages in materials and manpower, the project’s price tag increased by as much as 42% from original engineering estimates. Additional dollars are needed to complete the renovations. Fundraising is ongoing and includes a final phase to upgrade the parking lot, landscaping, and playground.
In addition to expansion of The Learning Lamp’s child care center in Somerset, the organization is also spearheading efforts to launch a multimedia campaign to raise awareness of early learning career pathways and recruit workers to the field through pre-apprenticeship programs for high school students, streamlined transitions into ECE registered and non-registered apprenticeship initiatives, which include access to free college education, and emerging strategies to increase child care options through the piloting of micro-child care centers and Staffed Family Child Care Networks.
For more information about The Learning Lamp’s Child Care Works for Somerset project and overarching initiative, Child Care Works for the Southern Alleghenies, call Leah at 814-262-0732 x223.
The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. In 2021, The Learning Lamp served 28,160 youth/adults from 51 school districts and 69 other schools and organizations in 19 Pennsylvania counties. Our programs include: child care and preschool, after school programs, tutoring, SAT prep, online learning, credit recovery, alternative education and specialized classrooms for at-risk students, trauma support groups for children/families, temporary staffing, and grant writing and project consulting for schools.