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Harrisburg to break ground on new pre-K center

  • An artist's rendering of the playground side of the soon-to-be constructed Bulldog Early Learning Environment.

    An artist's rendering of the playground side of the soon-to-be constructed Bulldog Early Learning Environment.

By Travis DeNeal
Posted on 6/4/2021, 1:00 AM

HARRISBURG -- Harrisburg Unit 3 School District will start construction soon on a new pre-K center.

Dubbed the Bulldog Early Learning Academy, the district will host a public groundbreaking event at 5 p.m. Monday, June 7 at Bulldog Boulevard, near the location of Harrisburg Middle School.

"We're very excited and very proud to be able to bring this to Harrisburg," District Curriculum Coordinator Natalie Fry said. "This is a wonderful opportunity."

BELA will be housed in a 15,000 square-foot building, Fry said, and is a continuation of the district's success in early childhood education.

"For the last 20-plus years, Harrisburg Community Unit District 3 has offered high-quality early childhood programming to the community's youngest learners," she said. "The district has touched the lives of thousands of children."

Parents with children who have been in the program say it has been instrumental in preparing their children for success in school.

"Our son has learned so much attending pre-K at West Side. He enjoys going to school, has made friends, and is academically prepared for kindergarten. The teachers truly care and are passionate about their jobs and love each child as their own. We are very pleased with the program and all the teachers that have helped our son succeed. We highly recommend West Side pre-K," parents Austin and Lyndsi Apple said.

"The Harrisburg pre-K team is amazing. Everyday at pickup, my daughter can't wait to share what she's learned with me. The staff is so friendly," parent Heather Rice said.

Fry said it's not just parents who have been impressed with the program. At the state's most recent monitoring of the program, it earned the Silver Circle of Quality status from an independent evaluator. Silver Circle programs meet or exceed quality benchmarks focused on learning environment, instructional quality, family community and engagement, qualifications and continued professional development," Fry said.

"This is a further testament to the high quality learning happening for the children of Harrisburg," she said.

The district will be working in partnership with CORE/P3 of Memphis, a company that has developed multiple school projects. H.E. Mitchell Construction will serve as the general contractor.