HYANNIS – The YMCA Cape Cod has been awarded a $1 million grant from the state to support a new early education center in downtown Hyannis.
The grant was one of six announced Thursday at the Hyannis Village Marketplace on Stevens Street – the location of the new education center which will open next fall.
The 2019 Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund Facilities Improvement grant awards were funded through the Department of Early Education and Care, and the Children’s Investment Fund, an affiliate of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation.
YMCA Cape Cod will renovate a commercially-zoned office and retail space to develop the early education center that will serve, primarily, low-income families.
The state-of-the-art center will be a tenth of a mile walk from the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, and just one block away from Main Street for immediate access to the Hyannis Public Library, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and the Cape Cod Maritime Museum.
The design includes five classrooms that will be able to serve up to 65 infants, toddlers and preschoolers; an indoor motor play space with doors that open into a natural playscape; urban courtyard; and floor to ceiling windows for natural light.
“One million dollars invested into capital infrastructure for children is exactly what the Cape Cod community needs,” said Stacie Peugh, the president and CEO of YMCA Cape Cod. “We need more of it.”
Peugh said she couldn’t be happier that the organization is able to bring the facility to Hyannis to serve children and families.
“There are a hundred families who live in the apartments above these spaces who need services like an early childhood program,” Peugh said.
Peugh said the facility will be transformational and change the culture and feel of the community.
“There is nothing more exciting than seeing children and families play together and learn together,” she said. “It’s what makes it feel like a vibrant community.”
Peugh believes bringing the early education center to the community will be a draw for similar organizations to bring community service opportunities to the area.
Plans for the facility call for the outdoor courtyard area at the property to be converted into an all-natural playground.
“That will actually be utilized not only by the children in the daycare but the residents who live here in the apartments above these spaces,” Peugh said.
Second Barnstable State Representative Will Crocker (R-Centerville) said the new facility will provide a sense of security for parents.
“We have had some shake ups where child care has been going the last six months or so,” Crocker said. “Kudos to YMCA Cape Cod for being able to step in and pick the ball up and continue moving forward.”
Crocker said parents need to know there is going to be a safe and secure environment, and a place where children will be able to grow and thrive, when they drop of their kids.
Crocker said early childhood education is a component of the affordable housing issue on Cape Cod.
“We also need to know that once we get that housing for those families, those families need to know that there is a place for their children to go to be able to be safe, to learn and to thrive,” he said.
Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) echoed the importance of child care when it comes to increasing access to affordable homes for younger families.
“If you are someone who is trying to make a life here on Cape Cod you have to be working, and if you have a spouse they are probably working too,” Cyr said. “So child care is just a key piece of how we help working families be successful.”
Cyr said providing more options for families will help them to stay afloat.
“For families that are really struggling to make ends meet, this center is going to make a big difference and it is a big deal to have state support for it,” Cyr said.
Cyr said he would like to see every town on Cape Cod support some form of universal pre-kindergarten programs. He cited a voucher-based program in Wellfleet and the work of Mashpee to integrate programs with the schools as possible models for other communities.
“We are struggling to keep our families,” Cyr said. “If you look at where we are going demographically, we are losing younger people. We are losing young families.”
Cyr challenges other towns on the Cape to take up universal pre-K programs at town meetings.
“I think we can do this Cape-wide working with each of our towns before we are able to do it at the state level,” he said.
The announcement of $6 million in grant funding from the state for the six programs was made by Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, the state’s Early Education and Care Commissioner.
The other awardees include Cape Ann YMCA/YMCA of North Shore, which serves the Gloucester area; Greater Lawrence Community Action Council; Greater Lowell Family YMCA; Horizons for Homeless Children, in Boston; and the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, which serves the greater Worcester area.
“All children deserve to learn in enriching environments and their teachers deserve well-equipped facilities,” said Aigner-Treworgy. “The EEOST Capital Fund is creating those environments across the Commonwealth and leveraging additional resources in support of high-quality early childhood education and out-of-school time.”