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Hilltop Early Learning Center construction complete, facility to open in January

Neighborhood youngsters were on hand Monday to cut the ribbon on the newly-finished Hilltop Early Learning Center.

The city-funded facility, located at 45 Claredon Ave., aims to help underserved kids prepare for academic success.

The 50,000-square-foot facility is the city's answer to a problem outlined in a 2018 report, that found fewer children living in the Hilltop neighborhood were enrolled in high-quality pre-K education programs than anywhere else in Columbus.

The new $20 million center features not only classrooms, but healthcare, counseling and food assistance, along with other services.

Hilltop resident Jonie Johnson said she believes the center will give her grandson, Isaac, a head start on kindergarten. "A building like this sends a message to all of our children that they matter, you know, and that their education matters," Johnson said.

Hilltop Partnership director Paula Neal said dozens of children have already enrolled. "Our innovative learning model emphasizes fun, prepares children for school and celebrates the culture that makes this incredible, incredible community whole," Neal said.

Tuition is free for families living at 300 percent below the poverty line, or $83,250 in annual income for a family of four, according to the center's website.

Classes begin next month. More information about the center can be found here.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.