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Operator Chosen for Future Santa Monica Early Education School  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 10, 2016 -- An early education school planned for the Santa Monica Civic Center via a partnership between the City and Santa Monica College (SMC) now has an operator.

The partnership announced Monday that Santa Monica-based Growing Place has been selected to operate the school, which is expected to open in 2019 and accommodate as many as 110 children.

Growing Place already operates two child care centers in Santa Monica -- one at 1406 Marine Street and another at 401 Ashland Avenue.

"This is a real opportunity for Santa Monica to spotlight high quality early education and its benefits to our society," said Pauline McPeake, executive director of Growing Place.

She added, "Growing Place is guided by a strong image of the child and a belief in the role of education in constructing a better world."

Discussions about building this school date back to as early as 1989.

Momentum has grown over the years, and the partnership between the City and SMC was finalized in 2012 (“Santa Monica Day Care Center Goes to Council, February 14, 2012).

Called a lab school, it will feature a staff of SMC students under instructional supervision who are studying early childhood development.

Officials say the college students will gain real-world experience by working with the children ranging in age from infancy to pre-kindergarten.

"The lab school approach will help to address one of the critical concerns identified by our Wellbeing Index--better preparing our youth for kindergarten and helping to close the achievement gap,” Mayor Ted Winterer said.

He added, "Growing Place is a great fit for this project and their involvement will help to make Santa Monica a place where everyone, no matter their background, can learn and thrive."

Laura Manson, SMC’s early childhood education department chair, said, "We have a real opportunity to be innovative together -- to offer students the chance to be in a fully-operating child care facility while receiving instruction and for parents and children to benefit from the most current, scientific practices in the field."

Santa Monica residents and employees will have priority consideration for available spaces. The goal is for 30 percent of the enrolled children being Santa Monica residents and 15 percent from families in the "low-income bracket."

The RAND Corporation has donated one-time money to the project via a development agreement with the City, which officials say will assist with program startup and tuition subsidies for low-income people.

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