Early childhood learning center in Columbia to expand

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COLUMBIA - Head Start on Worley Street will be undergoing new additions in the coming months.

The early childhood education and learning center was granted a conditional use permit at Tuesday's Board of Adjustments meeting to allow the operation of a new mobile building next door.

The 2,400 square ft. classroom facility will be adjacent to the existing facility, which is 1,800 square ft.

It will include an extension of the parking lot, two new playgrounds and the classroom facility, which will be relocated from an Osage County facility. (See blueprint below.)

The new facilities will allow the school to double the amount of children in the program, going from approximately 20 to 43 children.

This comes after a $400 million budget cut in 2013, shaving down funding for early childhood education programs.

"It really hurt a lot of of our programs, and in my mind it was irresponsible government to make across the board cuts like that without really thinking about the overall impact of that," said Darin Preis, executive director of Central Missouri Community Action, which oversees Head Start.

The Head Start program needed to cut down on its enrollment for 2013, which eliminated 105 educational spots for children in eight Missouri counties, including 45 spots in Boone County.

The director of the Head Start on Worley Street, Rachelle Painter, said the extension was much needed for her program.

"Our wait lists have gotten rather long and we recognize that the community needs to have more options."

The wait list now has more than 100 names of families who are looking for approval.

Painter said job opportunities will open for up to six new teachers and a cook in the coming months.

Head Start is a federal program for preschool children, from birth up to five years old, for low-income families.

To enroll a child, parents file applications with Painter and then will be put on a waiting list until the next opening.

The CMCA hopes to have the new facilities doors open by the beginning of 2016.

"This expands our services, it reduces our wait list a little bit, and, overall, it means there's going to be more kids in Columbia ready for school," Preis said.