After facing the possibility of closure in 2013, big changes are nearing completion at the historic Barrett Early Learning Center.
Formerly known as the Janie Porter Barrett Day Nursery, Barrett is the longest-operating preschool in Virginia. It was founded in 1935 with federal funding from the Works Progress Administration.
The program moved to its current location on Ridge Street in 1984. The facility dates back to 1915 and previously was owned by the Charlottesville & Albemarle Community Chest — the precursor to the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area.
Financial difficulties nearly closed the daycare center in 2013, but community members intervened to keep the program running.
Children ages 2 through 5 attend the learning center and are engaged in a healthy and safe environment to grow and learn.
The center recently welcomed Charlottesville native Deborah Rogers as its new executive director.
Rogers has 18 years of experience working with children. Most recently, she served as site director for the afterschool program at Johnson Elementary.
The first of three renovation phases at Barrett began in 2014. As part of the final phase of renovations, improvements are being made to beautify the building and ensure compliance with state health and safety regulations.
Martin Horn Inc. partnered with the Building Goodness Foundation to take on four of the seven major renovation projects.
The stairway leading to the classroom for 3-year-olds has been relocated from the kitchen to a main foyer, improving accessibility without disturbing other classes in session.
Other completed projects include the renovation of three bathrooms, replacement of two fire escapes, the addition of an HVAC system and building an ADA-compliant accessible bathroom.
Building Goodness in April, a student-run organization that partners with the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, contributed to the center’s landscaping efforts. Through the organization, community members volunteer in local neighborhoods twice a year.
The biannual landscape projects at the daycare include fencing, replenishing mulch on the playground and adding a terraced garden. This partnership has served the learning center for at least five years.
Children who attend the learning center are able to have hands-on experience with urban gardening, growing strawberries, peanuts, blueberries and more in the daycare’s terraced garden.
In addition to the Building Goodness Foundation and Martin Horn, major sponsors of the renovation include Alloy Workshop, the Perry Foundation and the BAMA Works Fund.
“There’s so much more that we were able to do to address health and safety issues because of the generosity of the contractors and philanthropic organizations, like the Building Goodness Foundation,” board member Dede Smith said.
“Because of what they’ve given to us, we have been able to stretch our funds so much farther than we ever thought possible.”
Demolition of the center’s kitchen recently began. All phases of the renovation process are expected to be completed around the start of the school year.
The renovation is supported by a $90,000 challenge grant from an anonymous donor. The center currently is working to raise the remaining $17,000 to receive the $90,000 in matching funds.
“We look forward to showing off our renovations, beautifications and everything else when they are complete in September,” Smith said.