head_start_rendering_arcola lakesjpg_web.jpgMiami-Dade broke ground Wednesday on a Head Start center for Arcola Lakes in the north-central section of the county.

The 16,350 square-foot center slated for 770 NW 83rd St. in Arcola Lakes, will serve 120 preschoolers and employ about 12 teachers and teacher assistants.

Miami-Dade Community Action Agency’s Head Start/Early Head Start provides comprehensive child-development services for low-income children and families. The program is open to children from new born through age 5 and provides care and instruction in a classroom setting, according to its Web site.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said the center is an investment in the community. “It will help those who are struggling with poverty,” he said. “While parents work or search for jobs or further their education, this will be a safe place for their child.”

Miami-Dade Head Start programs service about 7,000 families each year. Programs at the new center will be offered at no cost.

Modeled after other Head Start facilities, the center will have classrooms, a conference room, a multi-purpose room, a parent room, offices, a clinic and a kitchen.  A light-harvesting atrium will double as an educational rotunda.

The building has been designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification.

“The building will be green to provide a healthful atmosphere for its occupants,” Alvarez said.

The $4,078,970 construction cost is being funded by the Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond program, according to Asael Marrero, manager of the Architecture and Engineering Section of the county’s General Services Administration.

The bonds are a way to finance government capital improvement projects.

The center is scheduled to open for classes in August 2012, said Community Action Agency executive director Julieanne B. Edwards.
A police station and a library are also under construction on the lot that houses the center.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime said the location of the building is important. “Northwest Seventh Avenue is the last major boulevard to be developed,” he said, “and the professionals here at the center are making a huge contribution toward it.”

The project is about community and economic development, said William Zubkoff, chairman of the Community Action Agency board. “We need to care for those in the community with specific needs. This building will cater to that,” he said.

If children are given a good head start, said Lillie Williams, 82, “you don’t have to worry about them being in trouble or going to prison.”

“I didn’t march with Dr. [Martin Luther] King for my own job,” said Williams, who began working with Head Start in 1970, “but to open opportunities for and enhance the lives of children. And that’s what Head Start offers.”

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net