$1M for renovations at Child Care of Berkshires

Elevator, new classroom and updated heating system among planned improvements

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NORTH ADAMS — Child Care of the Berkshires announced a $1 million grant for renovations to its Haskins facility on State Street on Thursday.

The funding will pay for the installation of an elevator, construction of handicapped accessible bathrooms, and a new classroom above the gymnasium.

The work will also include the installation of more energy efficient windows, a fire suppression system, and conversion from heating with oil to natural gas.

"We're going to do a million different things," said Anne Nemetz-Carlson, president and CEO of Child Care of the Berkshires Inc.

The Haskins facility on State Street was formerly a North Adams public elementary school and is still owned by the city, but now houses Child Care of the Berkshires' Monument Square Early Childhood Center.

The nonprofit, which was founded in 1960, provides assistance to more than 2,000 people in the Berkshires every year. Headquartered in North Adams, it operates three child care centers but also offers an array of family support programs, such as the Family Center and the Healthy Families Program.

The funding for the roughly $1.75 million renovation project comes via the federal Department of Early Education and Care's Early Education and Out of School Time Grant program and private donations through a capital fundraising campaign.

"We've already raised $250,000, so we have $500,000 to go," Nemetz-Carlson said. "We're applying for grants as well as looking for more support in the community."

A requirement of the grant was that at least 25 percent of the students in the program are from low-income families, and about 95 percent of the 81 students in the Monument Square Early Childhood Center meet that standard.

The program serves infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children.

Child Care of the Berkshires has utilized the former elementary school for more than 30 years, making smaller improvements along the way, but the 1922 building has not seen a renovation on the scale of the one planned in the coming months.

"My program is going to benefit so greatly with the reinventions of the classrooms and the facility, and all of the improvements to be made," said Kelly Phillips, director of the Monument Square Early Childhood Center. "It just shows the commitment we have to the families of North Adams."

Phillips pointed specifically to the benefits of a new classroom for school-age children, which will be lofted above the gymnasium.

Renovations also include installing classroom doors that lock, addressing air conditioning issues, and fixing some flooring.

"It's just a really nice list of many, many projects to bring the facility up to code," Nemetz-Carlson said. "Our staff is really excited about the elevator because we have programs on the second floor and the first floor."

The renovations are required to be complete within the next two years, according to Nemetz-Carlson.

The city and Child Care of the Berkshires took the first step to winning the grant last year.

A condition of the funding was that the nonprofit have long-term site control, so it agreed to a 25-year lease with the city in 2016.

The lease is rent-free for the first five years until rent payments of $1,100 per month begin in year six. As a condition of the site control, the nonprofit has also become responsible for the building's maintenance and upkeep.

"For 25 years, we're going to have a home here," said William Robinson, chair of the nonprofit's board of directors, who thanked Mayor Richard Alcombright for making the long-term lease possible.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter


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