VCS launches capital campaign to expand

Published 9:00 pm Monday, October 30, 2017

The Vicksburg Catholic Schools may soon be expanding.

On Oct. 12, VCS officially kicked off its five year capital campaign aimed at raising money to fund a new early childhood learning center that will offer classes for students up to the age of 3.

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“The early childhood learning center has been a topic and discussion around here for, I understand, 20 years,” VCS development director Kristi Smith said. “It has been discussed and been on the table because childcare is a calling of the Catholic church, but also because there is a growing and evolving need for early childhood learning in the community.”

The new 8,300 square foot facility will be located on the corner of Howard and Clay streets and have space to offer classes to approximately 100 students, Smith said.

“It will be cost comparable to the other facilities in town, somewhere between $100 and $120 a week,” Smith said. “The hours will be comparable, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so it will accommodate working families. We have tried to listen to what people are telling us they need. Will be closed for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, major holidays and that is it. It won’t follow the typical school year, it’ll be open in the summer, we won’t have that big break at Christmas.”

The capital campaign’s goal is to receive pledges totaling $1.2 million, which will be raised over the next five years. One of the major ways VCS is raising money is allowing donors to sponsor parts of the building.

Each of the nine classrooms in the center costs $25,000 to sponsor and six of them have already been sponsored. A donor can also sponsor the lobby for $50,000, other rooms for $15,000 or the playground for $100,000. Donors who pledge at least $5,000 will have their name put on a donor tree in the lobby.

“The capital campaign is going really well so far,” Smith said. “I anticipate us reaching (half) our goal by mid-November. The goal for the capital campaign is $1.2 million. We need about half that to go to the Diocese, which is our financial institution, to be able to say we are ready. We can move on this. We can go to them at half of our goal and they will give us what we need in order to go ahead and break ground.”

As of Friday, they had already received nearly $300,000 in pledges. Smith said their goal is to hit $500,000 by mid-November, which will allow them to go to the diocese to secure the necessary funding to break ground in January and then open to students in the fall.

Smith admitted that they have a vested interest in the center because of the potential to increase enrollment at St. Francis Xavier Elementary and St. Aloysius High School, but she said their overall goal for the early childhood learning center is to improve the quality of life in Vicksburg.

“Early on, we went to Pablo Diaz, Mark Buys and the Chamber of Commerce to get their input on our thoughts on rolling this out and presenting it to the public and everyone as an economic development piece,” Smith said. “There is a growing and evolving need for it in the community. We have a lot of childhood centers. We have put some time into studying it and a lot of the childhood centers don’t provide the extended hours that working families need … We felt like this was a good time to step forward and say we will help. We will provide this for the community.”

Smith said their goal with the center is to continue to improve students in Vicksburg and Warren Country’s preparation for kindergarten. VCS also added a 3-year-old class this year to go along with Montessori classes for 4-year-olds.

“United Way and the school district are working to help Vicksburg become a certified Excel by 5 community,” Smith said. “We are working to meet those requirements as well. As we begin to implement curriculum and so forth we will make sure we meet those qualifications as well. The whole premise of Excel by 5 is to make sure children between the ages of 0 and 5 are prepared for kindergarten.”