It’s been almost five months since the first scoops of dirt were moved marking the official start of construction on the Franklin School, a $10 million early childhood learning center in the city of Spartanburg’s Northside neighborhood.

Since the Northside Development Group, Mary Black Foundation and other partners broke ground in October, the new school has started taking shape at 100 Franklin St.

The 28,000-square-foot school will be open in early 2019 to accommodate 160-200 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. It will offer full-year, full-day programming and will charge tuition.

Spartanburg County First Steps will run the Franklin School’s programming, which will be modeled after Educare Schools. The model is based on research from early childhood development, education, social work and other related fields.

“So much happens to the brain of a child from birth to five years old, and if that development is good and well-supported, then they’re ready to learn when they go to kindergarten,” said John Stockwell, executive director of Spartanburg Academic Movement and chairman of the Spartanburg County Foundation board. “I think this school will be a leader in the state.”

Stockwell and other project leaders were at the school construction site Wednesday afternoon to present a $75,000 gift on behalf of the Spartanburg County Foundation to the Northside Development Group.

The grant, in honor of the foundation’s 75th anniversary, will fund the school’s garden and outdoor classroom.

Troy Hanna, president and CEO of the Spartanburg County Foundation, said the grant is an opportunity to support the education of the next generation of Spartanburg County residents.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of Spartanburg County residents, and we feel a grant of this impact will do that,” he said. “The $75,000 grant opportunity we feel is an investment in the future of Spartanburg County for the next 75 years.”

More than three years ago, the Mary Black Foundation announced an initial gift of $1 million to build a high-quality early learning center for children in Spartanburg and to serve as a model for the rest of the state.

When the Franklin School opens, priority enrollment will be given to children living in the Northside, then children zoned for Cleveland Academy of Leadership, followed by children who are city of Spartanburg residents, then children zoned for other District 7 schools and finally children who are Spartanburg County residents.

A partnership between Northside Development Group, First Steps’ Early Head Start program, Piedmont Community Action’s Head Start program and Spartanburg School District 7’s 4K program will provide financial support to allow children whose families can’t afford to pay the full price of tuition to attend the school.

Through a partnership with University of South Carolina Upstate, the Franklin School also will provide training and internships for students in the university’s School of Education Child Development and Family Studies program.

Bill Barnet, CEO and board chairman of the Northside Development Group, said the $75,000 gift is another example of community support for the school that will focus on the county’s youngest learners.

“The Spartanburg County Foundation has been all about taking care of needs in our community in a visionary way over the years. For them to give a gift to encourage us and to help build this into something very special just seems terrific,” he said. “I think this school is a core value of our effort to reach children at the earliest ages and prepare them for a lifetime of learning.”

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