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JBS donates $400,000 to future GIPS early childhood learning center

Grand Island Public Schools' Early Childhood Education (ECE) program will be able to support an...
Grand Island Public Schools' Early Childhood Education (ECE) program will be able to support an additional 60 preschool students and impact hundreds more, thanks to a generous gift provided by JBS.(GIPS)
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 11:08 AM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Grand Island Public Schools' Early Childhood Education (ECE) program will be able to support an additional 60 preschool students and impact hundreds more, thanks to a generous gift provided by JBS.

The $400,000 check was presented to GIPS Thursday morning and will go toward the O’Connor Learning Center project at 2208 N. Webb Road.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the many benefits that will stem from our new facility and its improved location,” said GIPS Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover. "For every dollar invested in early childhood, you can expect $12 back in the future. Research shows that students with these opportunities are more likely to graduate and attend college.

JBS Grand Island General Manager Zach Ireland said, “We are very proud to partner with the O’Connor Early Learning Center on this important and exciting project. We believe our investment will provide benefits for children and families in our community for years to come.”

The central location of the GIPS Early Childhood Education program is currently at the Early Learning Center on West Capital Ave. In honor of Ray O’Connor, the new facility was named the O’Connor Learning Center. The ECE program, which will move to the old Shopko location, also has preschool classrooms at Howard, Starr and Lincoln elementaries.

“This not only supports our work in implementing a new curriculum, but it will also have a direct impact on the students and the accessibility of learning,” said Early Childhood Coordinator Amy Richards. “Innovative classrooms will allow staff to spend more time focusing on learning experiences.”

Even the location itself will play a pivotal role.

“Our new facility is located in a more central location, which will provide additional parking and ease transportation barriers,” Richards said.

This marks another philanthropic milestone for JBS, said GIPS Executive Director Traci Skalberg. “JBS has long been interested in Early Childhood Education and the GIPS Foundation is honored to partner with them on this project and others that will have a lasting impact on our community’s children for generations,” Skalberg said.

The announcement is part of JBS' Hometown Strong initiative, a $50 million program to support communities where the company’s team members live and work. The investment reaffirms JBS USA’s longstanding commitment to rural towns and cities across American. It includes donations to alleviate food insecurity, strengthen long-term community infrastructure, and support COVID-19 emergency response and relief efforts.

Chief Construction is working on the building project, which plans to open for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“This new learning space is an incredible opportunity for our students, families and staff,” Richards said. “It will allow our district to serve 300 preschool students at the facility.”

The Early Learning Center has been a priority for the GIPS Board of Education.

“With the generous donation by Ray O’Connor to make this building available to us and JBS donating to help with the remodeling, we are finally able to realize our goal of providing a better location for our kids and their families,” said GIPS School Board President Bonnie Hinkle. “We are very grateful for these donors and we appreciate these leaders of Grand Island for recognizing the value of early childhood education.”

“This is another great example of Grand Island citizens and businesses working together to make a difference, and we look forward to seeing the improved facility,” Ireland said.

Grover said the need for early childhood education in Grand Island is greater than its current capacity.

“Thank you to Ray O’Connor for having such a huge commitment to early childhood in our city and thank you to JBS for making an investment that will pay huge dividends to our students and community,” Grover said.

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