learning community education buildilng

Schools await final $3.8M for downtown gym, learning center

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

learningcommunity education buildilng

An overhead rendering of the Community Education Building construction project.

Three schools sharing the same building in downtown Wilmington are eagerly awaiting the hoped-for completion of an $18 million project to build a gym, theater and early learning center.

 Kuumba Academy Charter School, Great Oaks Charter School  and High Road School of Delaware share the Community Education Building.

Formerly a MBNA office building. the Community Ed building is meant to ensure that all Wilmington children have access to high-quality education, and it also houses other services to help the students and their families.

The building already has $14.2 million of the $18 million needed from foundations, grants and private donations to complete the project, said Linda Jennings, chief executive officer of the Community Education Building.

“The proposed gym, theater and early learning center will have a significantly positive impact on our students and families,” said LaRetha Odumosu, executive director of Great Oaks.

Sally Maldonado, head of Kuumba Academy said her arts-integrated charter school is focused on the whole child.

“It is critical that we provide our students with access to state of the art facilities to support our phenomenal arts and sports programming,” she said.

Kuumba’s talented and hard-working students deserve a safe, dedicated space to use on a daily basis to work and learn, and their parents are supportive of the project, she said.

“Our parents are also very supportive of this project and what this will mean in preparing our students for high school and beyond,” Maldonado said. 

Jennings hopes to have the remaining funds in September – after that, it should take about one year for everything to be open for use, with the goal of a fall 2025 launch.

“The idea of the building is to provide increased access and give students and families whatever they may need,” Jennings said. 

The three new spaces are essentially filling in some of the gaps in support services that the Community Education Building seeks to offer.

Jessica Amiss, associate director at the High Road School of Delaware, said the school looked forward to the future improvements.

“Our school is an important resource for local families and this significant investment in the building will help enrich the possible learning and enrichment experiences for High Road School students,” she said.

The building also houses partners that serve students and families, both educationally and in mission-adjacent and mission-aligned ways, said Ihsan Muhammad, chief impact officer at the Community Education Building. 

“We really want to ensure that we’re able to expand the partners that we bring in to provide services to students,” she said, “and also to be able to expand the services to a larger population through program partnership.”

The partners include Teach For America, ChristianaCare, Delaware Guidance, Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education, Network Connect, Summer Collab and Code Differently.

Learning support

Social services can often be a game of whac-a-mole.

“If I’m a person looking for some support or some opportunity, I have to go find it, right? I go find it and then when I go find it, they say ‘Well, go over there’, and then you go over there and it’s like, ‘OK, well, that’s good, but now we need this’,” Jennings said.

This is a common experience in health care right now, Jennings said, but can also be the case for applying to colleges or jobs, finding internships, scholarship and student aid, or any other service. 

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The Community Education Building seeks to bridge that gap by being as close to a one-stop-shop for the needs of the community that it can be.

“We help to access and coordinate and put them together like a puzzle piece so they can hit their goals,” Jennings said. 

The building has several specialists in categories like housing, career, crisis support, family advocacy and more.

“We sort of lay over the academic institutions,” Jennings said. “They do a great job teaching and learning and supporting families …so there’s this nice network of support that don’t overlap and don’t interfere.”

The University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program is also present on the top two floors of the building. 

To learn more about the Community Education Building, or to donate to the project, click here.

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