Ground-breaking held at future site for Primeros Pasos

13 PASOS digging it- bishop, sally, maria, dan stein sally Baker

Participants in the ceremonial groundbreaking at Primeros Pasos’ future home on Savannah Road in Georgetown find earth-moving somewhat difficult due to the recent cold spell. From left: Bishop Wayne Wright, Episcopal Diocese of Delaware; Sally Beaumont (outgoing board president), Maria Joseph (Director); Dan Stein of Perdue; and Sandy Baker, Primeros Pasos board president.

GEORGETOWN – Build it … and they will come.

Three modular units built by Greenwood-based Nanticoke Homes previously utilized by Polytech School District as classrooms sit on permanent foundation on land across from Perdue’s Savannah Road plant – the future home of Primeros Pasos (First Steps) Early Childhood Learning Center.

Town of Georgetown, Sussex County and state officials joined those from Primeros Pasos Wednesday morning for the ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of what someday will be the new, expanded home for the pre-school program serves children six weeks to four years of age in a successful transition into public schools.

Primeros Pasos is currently based in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Pine Street in Georgetown, with a maximum enrollment of 20.

The new facility will serve upward of 70 children. The vast majority of Primeros Pasos pupils are from low-income families.

“The need in the community is great,” said Sandy Baker, Primeros Pasos board president. “So we took this undertaking on.”

There is a current hurdle: funding.

While $1.2 million has been raised thus far another $300,000 is needed to trigger the contractual renovation phase, resulting in an uncertain completion time-frame.

“In a perfect world, if the bids didn’t come in $300,000 more we would have been in by June,” said Ms. Baker. “Now that we have to raise this additional money it is iffy; we really don’t know. We’ve had a couple of good sized donations that have come in, but that still leaves us with a lot more.”

Financial need was echoed by her husband, David Baker, former Sussex County Finance Director/County Administrator.

13 PASOS lopez beaumont applause GOOD ONE

State Sen. Ernie Lopez, right, thanks longtime Primeros Pasos board member Andre Beaumont for his many years of service after reading a General Assembly tribute at Wednesday’s groundbreaking at Primeros Pasos’ future home in Georgetown. From left: State Rep. Rich Collins; State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn; Mr. Beaumont; and Sen. Lopez.

“We’re little bit short, about $300,000 short,” said Mr. Baker. “The main reason for that is the competitive building climate right now. It is not like what it was a few years ago. The bids for the building renovations were $200,000 to $300,000 more than we expected. Even the bids for the site work were about $100,000 more than we expected. We are working on that. We will get there. If you have ideas or suggestions we’d love to hear them.”

“More money,” shouted longtime/former Primeros Pasos board member Andre Beaumont, who was honored with a General Assembly tribute presented by State Sen. Ernie Lopez at the ceremony.

A non-profit, multi-cultural pre-school, Primeros Pasos’ mission is to prepare preschoolers to be ready for their future education, with instruction in English, basic math, vocabulary and social skills. A strong preschool foundation enables these students to succeed in their further education and in life, Ms. Baker said.

“About 80 to 90 percent of our students are from low income families. Most of them have Purchase of Care, so for them to maintain that Purchase of Care they do have to maintain a job, both parents,” said Ms. Baker. “They are very hard-working parents that want the best facilities for their children – and this place does that.”

Primeros Pasos has a bi-lingual staff to help children learn the English language – as well as Spanish.

“It is complete immersion: English to Spanish; Spanish to English. We are a multi-cultural facility,” Ms. Baker said. “We want these kids to have what they need to be able to be on the same footing as any other child starting kindergarten. They’ll have a love of reading … all those things that kids should have. We have heard before from the kindergarten schools that they do come ready. So that’s our goal.”

Renovation plans are to incorporate four to six classrooms in two of the modular units. A new front entrance, offices, multi-purpose room and kitchen are earmarked for the other building that is closest to Savannah Road. All three buildings will be connected through a hallway network with new restroom facilities featured in renovation plans, which include parking lot paving and sidewalks.

The buildings were used by Polytech as outdoor classrooms until they were replaced.

“They donated them to us and they are in good shape to be refurbished and used again,” said Ms. Baker. “We moved them down about probably close to three years now. Finally, we raised $1.2 million. We need $300,000 more, to actually award the contract.”

13 PASOS parking lot

Upcoming site work at the future new home of Primeros Pasos includes parking lot pavement.

A generous grant from Discover Bank covered the land purchase.

“All of the money that we have received at this point has all been grants,” said Ms. Baker. “We just need that extra $300,000; so we can say, ‘Go ahead; start building it.’ We are very excited about getting this completed, and we’ll be here for a ribbon cutting.”

“What we are doing today will be a blessing that will echo out through the generations; generations of parents and children and future citizens will be touched by this institution,” said Bishop Wayne Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware. “So the real blessing that we are getting today is the one that comes through dedication, commitment, hard work and generosity on so many people’s part that has made this day so special and so important.”

In fiscal years 2014-15, Sussex County has contributed $11,000 in total for the capital campaign.

“We get a lot of requests from people for different needs all through the year, but what’s important here is there was a need in this community and people realized that need. They stepped forward. They spent their time and their money to make this happen today,” said Sussex County Council President Michael Vincent. “We always talk about people having ‘sweat equity,’ well they have got sweat equity in this project. And we’re just happy to be part of it.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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