To provide for the growing demand for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe recently broke ground on a 47,600-square-foot building for its early education department.
The current programs serve 117 students with 70 children on the waiting list; the new building will be able to provide services to about 200 students from newborn to 5 years old.
The programs are important to the band because they integrate Ojibwe language and culture into the standard curriculum.
“Education is one of the Mille Lacs Band’s highest priorities,” Dennis Olson, Mille Lacs Band commissioner of education, said in a press release. “At a time when many school districts have had to make hard cuts, we are humbled to have the opportunity to invest in the future of our youth and our education system.”
The new building—which is expected to cost $9.5 million—will have a cultural room where elders will teach traditions like dancing, drumming and crafts. It will also have 17 classrooms and a gymnasium. The funding is mostly coming from the band, with some from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which in 2009 set aside $2 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
“Education begins at an early age,” said Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Marge Anderson in the release. “This new building will give us the resources to educate the next generation of Mille Lacs Band leaders.”
The project is also expected to create 21 new positions to staff the building, as well as 75 to 100 construction jobs.
The band expects the building to be open in August 2012.