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Columbus picks contractor for the first city-funded child care center in the Hilltop


There’s an oasis in sight for a 'childcare desert' on the west side where a new city-sponsored learning center will open in September.

Members of Columbus City Council voted Monday to approve a contract and funding for the new Hilltop Early Learning Center at 45 Clarendon Ave.

“This investment in the Hilltop is one of the best things we can do to ensure there is equal opportunity for our residents who live on the west side, which was identified as a childcare desert and really in need of these services,” said Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown.

After a bid process, Columbus Early Learning Center was selected to be the tenant and operator of the facility that will host 240 spots for children before they enter kindergarten.

Council approved a $3.47 million expenditure, including $3.12 million to operate the facility for the duration of the 2023/2024 school year, and funds to help the operator to prepare the facility before the September school year starts.

Brown said the problem was revealed during outreach efforts and confirmed through studies and local advocacy. Plans were unveiled in 2019.

“It is the product of a several-year effort by the city to improve access to high quality, affordable early childhood education on the Hilltop,” Brown said.

Columbus Early Learning Centers were granted a one-year contract with the option to extend it by a year, twice.

Brown said the facility will take a “whole child” and “whole family” approach by focusing on nutrition and healthcare and creating safe places to play inside and outside. Nationwide Children’s Hospital will have a presence in the building.

Early childhood education is “an essential piece of giving our kids the fair shot they deserve throughout life,” Brown said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.