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TLC shows plans, enlists support at open house

  • Danielle Ellingson, a TLC board member and the board's attorney, talks with people about the plans to move TLC to space in the building at 500 N. Grand Ave., during an open house Tuesday evening at that location. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • TLC Director Pam Ost and Charles City Board of Education President Robin Macomber address a crowd at a TLC open house Tuesday evening at 500 N. Grand Ave. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • A drawing shows the rooms that TLC will likely take over in the 1970s portion of the building at 500 N. Grand Ave. Levi Architecture drawing

  • Dan Levi, of Levi Architecture in Cedar Falls, talks at an open house Tuesday evening about TLC:The Learning Center moving into space in the building at 500 N. Grand Ave. Levi, who lives in Nashua, is a volunteer architect on a committee of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa that helps consult with child care centers on remodeling, relocation and new construction. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson,

Parents, businesspersons and other interested people gathered at a combination TLC open house and Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours meeting early Tuesday evening to tour what likely is the future home of The Learning Center.

TLC has been working with the Charles City School District since the beginning of the year to come up with an agreement for the community child care organization to lease space in the newer 1970s portion of the building at 500 N. Grand Ave., the former middle school.

The gathering Tuesday was an opportunity to show people which rooms TLC is interested in using in the building and answer questions, said Pam Ost, the TLC director.

TLC is interested in renting rooms 130B through 134, in the northeast part of the North Grand building.

“This is a community project,” she told the group of about 60 people. “We are partnering with the school district. We are partnering with other community members within Charles City, and you are our partners as well.

“Thank you for showing interest in a project that we believe will grow our community, grow our availability to take care of those new families and the current families that we have in our community and to stabilize that need that keeps growing in the child care area,” Ost said.

Robin Macomber, president of the Charles City Board of Education, called TLC an amazing option for families in the community.

“The availability of stable, high quality, affordable child care is just as essential in our community as education, housing and jobs,” she said. “It all fits together as a big puzzle. The quality of experience during the first 1,000 days of life establishes either a strong or a fragile foundation for everything that follows.”

Macomber said it’s natural for there to be a partnership between TLC and the Charles City Community School District.

“They can provide the best possible experience for our children from birth to career or college readiness,” she said.

Ost told the crowd that when she started at TLC three years ago there were 42 children, and there are 82 now.

“We are running out of space, and we are running out of the space that the children need to develop those skillsets that will move them forward into their school,” she said about the organization’s current leased space at 404 N. Jackson St.

“That is a huge part of why we’re looking at this, and it just seems that with the availability of this particular facility that the timing was right.”

Ost told the Press that the project is currently in the design phase.

“I’m trying to put together the business plan and the timeline. That’s kind of the next step,” she said. The intent is to relocated by next summer.

Ost said major construction will not be required for TLC to move into the former school building. She had told the Press previously no walls will need to be moved or removed in the rooms TLC wants to use, but an additional door may be necessary on at least one room to meet emergency exit requirements.

Some plumbing will be needed for rest room and changing facilities and bottle and food prep areas for the space intended for the youngest children.

“We realize it needs a new roof,” she said Tuesday, and wondered if TLC and the school district could partner on that.

Finding grants and other funding sources will be part of the transition, she said.

“We’re trying to keep everybody in the loop so we don’t overstep or we don’t misstep by doing something too quickly,” she said.

Ost said additional open houses will be held, both at the proposed TLC site at the North Grand Building, and at the current TLC location, to show people the conditions now and the potential space available.