Link to draft plans for public discussion on January 8th:
FAQ’s on Relocation
Who is HP Community?
For 67 years, Highland Park Community Nursery School & Day Care Center (HP Community) has been providing quality, licensed, affordable, early care and education for children whose parents live and/or work in the Highland Park and Highwood area or who are attending training to improve their economic situations. HP Community originally only served children of working parents, but because of the success of the program, non-working parents requested a ½ day nursery school program be added to the center’s offerings. Currently, we have multiple programs designed to meet the various needs of the families with young children who make up our community. We provide programs on a first come, first served basis with priority given to single parents and children/families that are referred to us by other agencies.
Over the past 67 years, HP Community has adjusted its programs to best meet the needs of the community. We have added programs, discontinued programs, and offered pilot programs meeting different needs. Our upcoming relocation has once again offered HP Community an opportunity to serve the community by meeting an unmet need. We will be relocating our current programs and adding services that currently are not fully met in our community.
Do we need additional daycare facilities in Highland Park?
We are not new, we’ve been providing services here in Highland Park for 67 years. We are simply relocating within Highland Park. While we are not adding additional daycare competition, there remains a significant need for childcare options in our area.
Based on IECAM maps, Ounce of Prevention information, DCFS resources and HP Community’s own waiting lists data, it was determined that there was is a significant need for services for children 0 to 3 years of age, especially for low to moderate income families. We determined that no center-based infant care was available in Highland Park even though 15% of families with children under the age of one would prefer center-based care, and 21% with children between the age of 1 and 2 years of age would prefer center-based care. Based on census data this would indicate that as many as 500 children ages 2 and under could benefit from HP Community offering center-based care. Within Highland Park there is one program (Lutz Family Center) that offers care for toddlers (12 slots), and eight licensed in-home providers who care for infants (18 slots). While there are more offerings for children 2 years old, there still are only 74 slots dispersed across 5 licensed centers (including HP Community). All totaled, 104 slots of care are available for children ages 2 and under.
How many students are currently enrolled at HP Community?
Currently, 93 students are enrolled at HP Community at our current location in the Karger Center, 1850 Green bay Road. This number is slightly down from previous years as School District 112 started offering full-day kindergarten, thus ending the need for ½ day wrap around kindergarten care at HP Community. We are projected to have 87 licensed enrollment slots at our new location.
What programs does HP Community offer?
With the addition of full-day kindergarten, we are planning some programming changes at our new location:
● Two-Year-Old Classrooms (x2) – Research-based early education is offered to children who turn 2 by September 1st. Children may attend the program on a full time, part time, or partial day basis. Class size is limited to 15 children with 3 teachers, providing the individualized attention necessary to promote positive social interactions and overall developmental growth. Since opening our first 2-year-old classroom in 2016, HP Community has had a waitlist of enough children to operate an additional classroom if we had had the space to provide the care. At our new location we will be able to add that second classroom.
● 3-and 4 Year Old Classrooms / Preschool for All (PFA) Classrooms (x2) – Illinois State Board of Education approved, research-based early education is offered five days a week with wrap around childcare services for three- and four-year-old children of working or student parents in our community. For this program, all PFA daycare children are required to be enrolled full time. Children may attend part time in the summer when Preschool for All is not in session. Each class consists of 20 children and three teachers. All children must meet PFA participation guidelines. In addition to focusing on the qualifying at-risk academic skills, social interactions, behaviors and skills are a focus of our emergent curriculum based on the Reggio Emelia approach to early learning.
● Infant/Toddler Classroom (x1) – Coming soon – Research-based developmental activities and parent education will be offered to families with children 6 months to 24 months. Children may attend the program on a full time, part time, or partial day basis. Class size is limited to 10 children with 4 teachers, providing the individualized attention necessary to meet each child’s individual needs, promote positive social interactions, and overall developmental growth.
All classes are taught by certified teachers that not only provide affordable, safe, nurturing care, but also enriching educational activities that meet Illinois Early Learning Standards that prepare children with the pre-academic skills necessary for success in school. Screenings include vision, hearing, dental and developmental. Developmental screening results are used to plan daily activities that incorporate those learning areas that are in need of improvement into the lesson plans. Each child’s progress is monitored and recorded using anecdotal notes, work samples and progress reports through individualized learning portfolios. This information is shared with parents during conferences and consultations that occur at least quarterly and as requested by parents and staff. Additionally, HP Community collaborates with School District 112 and private agencies that provide early interventions and evaluations for children who need these types of support services.
Why is HP Community relocating?
The City of Highland Park publicly announced its decision to place the Karger Center on the market for sale for potential redevelopment in May, 2017. This decision was made in light of a 2014 comprehensive assessment of City owned real estate which identified the Property as rapidly aging with escalating operating costs, which were among key factors in the City’s decision. We’re thankful to have resided in this City owned facility for the past five decades, but are very excited about the advantages that a new facility will bring to our children, staff, and programing. While we had been working with the Community Family Center (CFC), a non-profit organization that was raising funds to build a new human services facility for Highland Park residents, the CFC was unable to bring the project to fruition. Therefore, HP Community had to move forward on its own to find a new location.
What locations were considered for the HP Community relocation?
As soon as we were notified the City was starting to consider the sale of the Karger Center, an extensive search was conducted to look for a new home. There are many criteria that go into the consideration of any option including (but not limited to): early childhood licensing requirements; early childhood care fire code; available lease term; location; effect on programming; and cost. Below we have provided an exemplary (although not exhaustive) list of sites that we considered. This list is intended to demonstrate the types of locations considered and the challenges we faced throughout the process. Many additional sites were considered beyond what is on this list.
- Private Commercial Space and Land:
- Private Sale Vacant Land – There are a number of sites we looked at but they were ruled out due to financial constraints. The cost of land in the area we serve is much higher than our program income would be able to support. While there are grant and loan programs available for organizations like HP Community, they would not support both the purchase of land and development of a new facility on that land.
- 3500 Western – The owner was willing to work with us to renovate this existing building, but the site would not pass licensing or the fire code for young children. The early childhood fire code is quite stringent when starting operation in a new location. Many existing programs (including HP Community at the Karger Center) are grandfathered in but this would not allow a new program to open in the same location in the future.
- New Development at Karger Site – HP Community had been included in one of the proposals presented to the City for the redevelopment of the Karger Center site. We would have collaborated with a senior living facility to provide intergenerational care – something HP Community has been interested in for quite some time as so many of our children do not have grandparents in the area. Ultimately, this was not the proposal that was chosen by the City.
- Community Spaces:
- James Church Education Center – We inquired about this space but it was not offered.
- Trinity Episcopal Church – We visited the site but the rooms were too small and would be difficult to license due to fire safety guidelines.
- Immaculate Conception Educational Center – HP Community visited IC several times. IC Educational Center was one of the first locations that was considered when looking for an alternate for the CFC (Community Family Center). After the CFC put their plans on hold, HP Community and Tri-Con visited the site and finally HP Community investigated the site more thoroughly for our individual relocation. The Arch Diocese was interested in a short-term lease – 3 to 5 years. This would not work for the project as the length of the lease made the retrofits and renovations that were needed to be in compliance with DCFS and the State Fire Code cost prohibitive, in addition to the rent amount required.
- Public Entity Buildings and Land
- Park District of Highland Park – West Ridge Center Building – We met with the Park District of Highland Park. We inquired about West Ridge Center classrooms, but we were informed that all rooms at West Ridge are fully utilized.
- Park District of Highland Park – Undeveloped parcels of land – HP Community approached the Park District about the possibility of the Park District donating unused, smaller parcels of park district land. Some of these spaces were identified as part of the Park District’s Green Print Plan. However, it was determined that the parcels were too small to meet our needs.
- School District 112 – Lincoln School – When the School District announced they may be closing schools, we toured some of the schools – Lincoln School specifically. Utilizing Lincoln School would require that we segment and secure the portion of the school we would use, and perform extensive retrofits and renovations to meet all of our licensing requirements, quality programming requirements, and early childhood fire code. We assessed this through preliminary studies and site visits, and it was concluded that the cost to bring it up to code was too great.
- City of Highland Park – Highland Park Country Club – HP Community met with the City of Highland Park to explore possible space at the Country Club. The existing facility would not be able to be renovated to meet our licensing requirements and may be effected by the planning relocation of the Senior Center to the Country Club. Additional land at the site was determined to by unfeasible as most of the site is in a flood way and there are restricted covenants at the property.
What locations are currently being considered?
After careful consideration and discussion with multiple stakeholder groups, we have decided to move forward with the vacant property behind West Ridge Center. We will be asking School District 112 to transfer our ground lease from Kennedy Park to the West Ridge property, continue working with the Park District to coordinate access easements from Ridge Road, and continue to communicate with neighbors and elicit feedback.
The West Ridge Center Building and the bulk of West Ridge Park (over 9 acres) would not be impacted. The northwest corner of the property is a field used for more limited Park District programming and owned by School District 112. The Park District is working to identify other park sites where these programs could be relocated. HP Community would be adding a fenced playground that will be available for public use outside of our operating hours (public use in the evenings, on weekends, and holidays). Minimizing impact on neighbors, current park land, and current programming is a priority.
What is HP Community proposing to build?
HP Community is proposing an approximately 5,900 square foot building that would consist of 4 classrooms, a gross motor room, art studio, kitchenette, and reception area. The site would include a fenced outdoor play area with natural elements, a parking lot, and an area for storm water management. We are utilizing modular construction (prefabrication) in order to quickly construct our building once we complete the City planning and review process, receive a special use permit, and receive construction permits. The building will look and function as any other newly constructed building, but a significant amount of work is done off-site and then delivered and installed on-site. This will both help us meet our timeline to move and minimize construction disruption to neighbors.
What are the next steps in the process?
We will be asking for the support of School District 112 and the Park District at their Board meetings on February 26th. If we receive their support for this plan, the next steps are: file a special use permit application with the City (early March); City will review and make public the application and application materials (mid to late March); notifications will be mailed for a public meeting date before the Plan Commission (mid to late March); present and discuss plans at a Plan Commission meeting with a public comment opportunity (early April); Plan Commission recommendation and findings presented to City Council for consideration of final approval with a public comment opportunity (late April); and finally the issuance of a special use permit, construction permits, and the start of construction (May). This timing is tentative and just an estimation of the earliest things may occur based on required notification periods, scheduled meeting dates, and allowing for multiple public comment opportunities. This is a standardized process within the City that we, and any other new project like ours, are required to go through.
How many students does HP Community anticipate serving at a new location?
Next year we anticipate having 87 slots for care. Some of these slots will be shared by part-time attending children so the number could be slightly higher. In our experience we have found that younger children tend to go to childcare on a part-time basis as parents may adjust their work schedules to be at home to keep costs down or the child may spend one or two days a week with a grandparent, etc.
What effect will the new HP Community location have on traffic?
The effect on traffic and parking requirements are a major aspect of the City plan and review process. Our application to the City for a particular site will include a traffic study that looks at existing conditions (based on traffic counts), HP Community’s effect on that traffic, parking needs, and future projections of traffic based on growth models for the area. This study is assessed and considered by the City Plan and Review Commission.
What programs does HP Community provide that aren’t currently provided elsewhere in Highland Park or Highwood?
- HP Community is an ExceleRate IL Gold Circle of Quality program – only D112’s Green Bay School has this quality rating in Highland Park.
- Preschool for All Program – no other program is funded for PFA in Highland Park.
- Two-Year-Old Programs (CCAP Contracted Care) – programming is quite limited for this age group. According to DCFS, there are 5 centers offering a total of 74 slots, but HP Community is the only one with state CCAP contracts to provide care for low to moderate income families. For the past 2 years we have had a waitlist of 16 – 18 children indicating that there is a need for more 2-year-old care.
- Toddler Program – 1 center offers 12 slots of care. HP Community will utilize our CCAP contract to offer additional care for children from low to moderate income families. This program will be added once the center is open so we can become licensed. Eventually this class will switch to infant care and the toddler program will also accommodate young 2-year olds. The grouping will be based on developmental skills as well as age.
- Infant Program – Currently there are no center-based infant care programs in Highland Park. Infant care (6 months – 15 months) will not be offered immediately as the center must be up and running in order to reissue our license to include this age group. We anticipate providing care for this group as we transform our second 2-year-old class to serve toddlers and younger 2’s thus allowing us to serve non-mobile infants in a safe environment that does not include children who are walking. This adds safety and a greater focus on the developmental needs specific to these children. When working with younger children it is important to consider their developmental age over their physical age.
What is Preschool for All?
Preschool for All (PFA) is the State of Illinois’ universal preschool program that provides early educational experiences for 3 and 4-year-olds who are considered at-risk for academic failure. Children may qualify for the program under 2 priorities. Priority 1 qualifies children based on developmental screenings which take in to consideration motor skills, concepts, speech and language skills, and social emotional skills. In addition to developmental skills, children can also qualify under Priority 1 based on risk factors such as physical/health concerns and family circumstances such as chronic illness of a sibling or parent, single parent household, English language learner, parent in the military, and educational level of parent. Priority 2 qualifies children based on family size and income. Up to 20% of the children enrolled in PFA, may not qualify under Priority 1 or 2 but are allowed to participate to create a diverse classroom that is reflective of our community.
If HP Community doesn’t find a new home, would the Little Giants program at Highland Park High School have to be shut down?
Little Giants would not necessarily have to shut down, but it is likely that HP Community would not operate it. The program struggles to break even as HP Community must maintain our salary scale, benefits and the standard of care as indicated with our Gold Circle of Quality rating. It is too difficult to cover expenses of maintaining this level of service with just one classroom. We would provide adequate notice to School District 113, and work with them to find a new organization to take over operations.
Little Giants current enrollment is 16 children, ages 2 to 5. Several high school students volunteer at Little Giants on a regular basis. In the past students have come over from the child development class to spend time in our classroom during their lunch, free periods before/after school, etc. Little Giants collaborates with specific teachers to provide student-child interactions.