Santa Monica College (SMC) has released a new round of information about their proposed Early Childhood Education Center at the Civic Center site.

In a FAQ posted on SMC’s website, the college said it had chosen Growing Place as the operator of the Santa Monica Early Childhood Lab School. Growing Place is a nonprofit organization based in Santa Monica that already collaborates with SMC on the SMC Teacher Academy.

“This is such a positive step forward, for our students, for the Santa Monica community,

and for the children who will come to this Center,” said Laura Manson, Early Childhood

Education Department Chair at SMC in a statement. “We have a real opportunity to be innovative together – to offer students the chance to be in a fully-operating childcare facility while receiving instruction, and for parents and children to benefit from the most current,

scientific practices in the field.”

The ECEC has been approved by City Council but requires additional approval from the California Coastal Commission and from the Division of the State Architect. SMC said it plans to begin construction in 2017 and open in 2019.

A condition of the City’s approval was priority enrollment for Santa Monica residents. Officials have said their goal is a minimum of 30 percent local enrollment and at least 15 percent enrollment for low income families.

Once open, the facility will offer child-care services through Growing Place but it will also be a teaching facility for SMC’s existing education programs. College students will be onsite to observe and study child development. SMC offers associate degrees and certifications in several fields with a focus on working with special needs students and the SMC programs can be used as a foundation for students pursuing additional credentials or degrees in education.

“This is a real opportunity for Santa Monica to spotlight high quality early education and its benefits to our society,” said Pauline McPeake, Executive Director of Growing Place in a statement. “Growing Place is guided by a strong image of the child and a belief in the role of education in constructing a better world. This partnership underscores SMC’s commitment to the development of cutting edge practices and research.”

Growing Place founder Ellen Khokha is an instructor at SMC and the organization’s teachers also serve as part time instructors and mentors to SMC students.

The $13.2 million ECEC is the result of years of planning and discussion. Some form of childcare has been envisioned for the Civic Center site throughout various plans and documents. The project gained momentum recently when City Hall approved a plan in 2012 that formalized the partnership between SMC and the city.

City Hall is subsidizing the price of the land and SMC paying for its portion of the cost via Measure S monies approved by voters in 2004. Money for the facility is also provided by the Rand Corporation who were required to make a one-time payment towards the facility through their Development Agreement.

The ECEC will be a 19,152 square foot building sitting on a 60,480 square foot facility and will include a preschool building, an infant-toddler building, offices and classrooms and a public meeting space.

“This collaboration is going to bring high quality early learning to our children and their families, and train the next generation of preschool teachers,” said Mayor Ted Winterer in a statement. “The lab school approach will help to address one of the critical concerns identified by our Wellbeing Index: better preparing our youth for kindergarten and helping to close the achievement gap. Growing Place is a great fit for this project and their involvement will help to make Santa Monica a place where everyone, no matter their background, can learn and thrive.”

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Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...