KIPP, YMCA plan joint center for children not yet in school

ByRita Price

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KIPP Columbus and the YMCA of Central Ohio are partnering to open a center for infants, toddlers and preschoolers on the KIPP campus on the city’s Northeast Side.

The KIPP/YMCA Early Learning Center is to open by September and will serve children 6 weeks to 6 years old, or until they start kindergarten.

“I’m really excited that we’re expanding our program to serve kids earlier,” said Hannah Powell, KIPP Columbus executive director. “It’s going to be transformational — another proof point of what’s possible.”

KIPP, which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of high-achieving charter schools that focus on kids from disadvantaged communities. The YMCA is the area’s largest provider of child-care and early-learning programs.

The center will be open to KIPP families and the public, with an admission lottery set for Feb. 26. KIPP employees and families with children already attending KIPP will receive priority for the slots, officials say.

When complete, the center will have 140 slots, most of them for preschool children.

“We’re excited to have a partner like KIPP where we can help with the seamless transition from preschool to elementary school,” said Becky Ciminillo, vice president of youth development for the YMCA. “Our goals are very similar.”

Demand already has exceeded capacity. “We have almost 200 people signed up already,” Powell said. “There’s such a need.”

Families can apply up to Feb. 25, the day before the lottery drawing, she said.

Although KIPP schools don’t charge tuition, families will pay for their children to attend the early-learning center. The programs will accept child-care subsidies.

And after a year of operating, the YMCA expects the center to earn a top rating that would allow officials to seek additional funding sources that would help lower costs, Ciminillo said.

KIPP Columbus opened its new campus in 2014 and has an elementary and middle school. A high school also is planned, starting with the addition of ninth grade this fall.

“By 2020, KIPP Columbus will serve about 2,000 kids in pre-K through 12,” Powell said. “That’s when we’ll be fully built out.”

The new center is to have big classrooms with natural light, natural play areas, access to technology and robust programming. When full, it will be the YMCA’s largest early-learning program.