HARRISBURG -- Harrisburg Unit 3 educators broke ground on a new prekindergarten academy Monday afternoon, and said they are excited about improving early learning in the district.
Dr. Eric Witges, current West Side School principal who will eventually become unit superintendent, said the district wants to make every learning opportunity available for students.
"It's an honor and a privilege for everyone to be here today," Witges told those gathered under a large canopy to dodge a brief rain shower. "This is a big deal for us and a big deal for this community in order to serve our kids and our community to the best of our ability.
Witges said the learning opportunities provided by the expanding pre-K program, which will move from West Side to the building to be built, will have long-term positive effects.
"The impact that today will have will be felt for generations to come, and that's the exciting piece. It's not every day you get to make that statement," he said. "We want to make a difference, and I think the most impactful way we can do that is invest in our community, invest in our students and invest in our families."
Pam Rizkallah, the district's pre-K coordinator, said she is looking forward to what her program offers to the district.
"When I joined Harrisburg Unit 3 a little less than two years ago, I never would have imagined that we'd be standing here today," Rizkallah said. "I am so excited that we have the community's blessing, the school board's blessing and we are building this wonderful facility for our pre-K."
Dee Brown, president and CEO of the P3 Group, the developer of the project, said he was impressed with the speed at which the school district and P3 Group was able to reach an agreement for the project and break ground on the project.
"I think it was about 78 days ago to date that we executed an agreement to deliver this pre-K school to the district," Brown said. "Just the robustness of what we've accomplished in 78 days shows the power that can be harnessed when the public sector and the private sector work together on these types of projects."
Harrisburg Mayor John McPeek spoke, congratulating the district, developers, contractors and others involved.
"Today is an exciting day for Harrisburg," McPeek said. "Providing quality accessible educational opportunities for all youth in Harrisburg is at the forefront of the leadership staff, it's representative of the board of education and the leadership of our district."
State Sen. Dale Fowler also spoke, praising the development and expansion of the pre-K program, which will be known as the Bulldog Early Learning Academy.
"To have this child study center right here on this ground in Harrisburg is an amazing accomplishment," Fowler said. "To get this to fruition in just 78 days, to get this announcement, I can't wait to see in the future what this is going to be like. I can't wait for that day that the doors will open, we have that ribbon cutting and we bring those children in and there's smiles on their faces."