Jackson Square celebrated a milestone Monday with a ribbon-cutting on a $17 million early education center. But the joy was tempered, for at least one speaker, by the need to keep doing what it takes to lift families out of poverty and violence.
About 200 residents and dignitaries marked the opening of the Nurtury Learning Lab outdoors under sunny skies. State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, D-Jamaica Plain, urged those gathered to remember the tough times poor Boston families must work through. When at full capacity, the new center will serve 175 students and their families.
"Yeah, it's an exciting day," Sánchez said, "but it's also a sobering day."
He gestured to the brick high-rises of Bromley Heath, saying "these buildings are falling apart....It's a beautiful day, but after 5 o'clock it's a different place."
Sánchez, who grew up in the old Mission Main housing projects, said he'd keep the pressure on to improve the homes that students at the center go back to after their days in the state-of-the-art facility.
"It's not over yet," Sánchez said. "There's a lot more to do."
The 33 Bickford St. facility boasts 20,000 square feet of classrooms and 14,000 square feet of outdoor play and learning areas. The state's secretary of education, Matthew Malone, praised the facility for the role it can play in making universal pre-Kindergarten a reality in Massachusetts.
"Every single inch of this building was designed with young people's cognitive development in mind," Malone said.[selfie]
A tour of the facility bore out that billing. It has classrooms designed for particular ages, from toddlers and infants. Many of the rooms can serve several purposes. For instance, a science room complete with sinks a four-year-old can reach also has lockers for the teens who would visit for after-school programs.
In addition to a commercial kitchen where staff makes meals and snacks, the lobby is also a "teaching kitchen" where families can together learn how to cook nutritious meals. A pasta dish, for instance, could make use of a tomato grown in the center's gardens, said Tucker Levy, a Nurtury staff member.
There's a small basketball court that can accommodate community meetings and even neighborhood movie nights. Here's a break-down of some of the numbers:
- seven classrooms for infants and toddlers
- three classrooms for preschool
- after-school classrooms:
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math workshop and deck
- art studio
- media technology room
- discovery room
- conference room
- preschool "fitness park"
- "Orchard Playground"
- "Natural Play Area"
At capacity, the center will serve:
- 175 children up to age 8, their siblings and families
- 148 parent/adult learners
- 150 early education teachers
- 700 low-income families
- 1,828 children, teens and adults who live in Bromley Heath
- residents of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, who will have access to the facility
And while the new Learning Lab is physically a major step up from the Parker Street basement where the day care was long held, Bromley Heath's Mildred Hailey said she hopes the sense of pride she saw in the old digs shines through in the new $17 million ones.
"That's what I'd want to see here," the former longtime head of the Bromley Heath Tenant Management Corp. said, "a continuation of the pride that residents took in the facility."