Learning Center expanding services

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Learning Center of North Arkansas is growing its campuses in Carroll County, allowing the nonprofit to expand its services for individuals with developmental disabilities in the community.

Director Karla Gray said the Learning Center has purchased the old tobacco shop across from Daylight Donuts. The building is being renovated and expanded, she said, so it can house a conference center and administrative offices.

“We’re going to have our administrative offices in the building as well as a conference center which can hold up to 125 persons,” Gray said, “which is good because that’s how many people are employed at the center.”

This new addition means the Learning Center will no longer have to go to other areas to conduct its annual in-service staff training, she said.

“We are definitely excited about that,” Gray said.

She said the Learning Center had looked at the facility before it became the tobacco shop, but it had been out of their price range at the time.

“We just waited and had heard they might be looking to vacate the building, so we went from there basically,” she said. “It’s so advantageous to have that because it joins our adult center property in Berryville, so we can walk across the street to visit our facility. It was something we needed to make happen.”

The Learning Center has been fundraising over the years, Gray said, to make this project a reality. A building account was set up so that the center would have funds for needed projects, such as expanding the preschool program or the adult learning program, she said.

“That’s what we’ve done with this project,” Gray said. “Now we have one building where we can all participate. We would love to be in by the first of the year. We’ve had a few setbacks with the highway department because of the runoff of water, so we’re working with them and our engineers to try to make that compatible with everyone.”

The goal is to have the new building ready to go by Jan. 1, she said.

As far as the old administrative building is concerned, Gray said it may become a new daycare for infants and toddlers.

“If we can’t find a use for it, we’re probably going to tear it down and have space to build a new infant and toddler building that would just house that age group,” she said. “Parents could pay privately and bring their kids to quality daycare. It’s such a need.”

The new administrative building is not the only project underway for the Learning Center this fall, Gray said. The center has been working with the Alpena School District to set up a child-care facility on the school campus, she said.

“Hopefully, we will be licensed the first of next week for 24 students,” she said. “We will start with 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds for now and try to expand the program to offer that to birth through five years.”

Gray said the Learning Center has received an overwhelming response from the community, demonstrating the need for quality childcare.

“We haven’t advertised, and we haven’t really made it public yet. Just through word of mouth, we have seen that it’s such a need in the community,” she said. “So many people it seems drive into Harrison to work, and they pass Alpena schools every day. I think it’s going to be a win-win for the community and for the Learning Center.”

Gray said she and the Learning Center staff are looking forward to the completion of the new administrative building.

“I think aesthetically it will be a nice addition to our community,” she said. “It will be a nice representation of what we want Berryville to be, and it completes our campus by letting us be closer to our adult and preschool program. Then we will be able to use the existing facility we are in now to hopefully get some more children enrolled.”

The Learning Center of North Arkansas currently operates in Carroll, Madison, Newton, Boone and Marion counties with seven locations. The primary office is located at 705 W. College in Berryville. For more information, call the center at 870-423-3000.

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