Governor McKee Announces First Round of Funding for Community Learning Centers


Round One Includes Over $28 Million for 12 Centers that Focus on Educational Programming, Workforce Training and Health and Wellness Activities 





SMITHFIELD, RI – Governor Dan McKee today announced the approval of over $28 million in awards for 12 community learning centers funded with federal dollars through the State’s Community Learning Center Municipal Grant program. A key component of the administration’s Learn365RI Initiative, the grant program is designed to help municipalities create state-of-the-art spaces that offer programming to improve education outcomes and student performance, provide workforce training for better and higher-paying jobs, and help residents enhance their physical and mental health. Today’s announcement represents round one of the programs, when round two is announced the total investment will be $81.7 million under this initiative.


“As a former Mayor, I know the importance of strategically investing in our local communities to make Rhode Island a great place for families to live, learn, work, and thrive,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Our community learning center initiative will allow cities and towns to create dedicated hubs that will drive positive change in education, workforce development, and health These centers will directly support our three goals for Rhode Island: improving educational outcomes, raising incomes, and building a healthier state.”


“Libraries and community learning centers provide students and families with opportunities outside of the classroom and help build strong, healthy communities. I was pleased to lead efforts to deliver nearly $82 million in federal funding for Rhode Island to strengthen these community assets though the American Rescue Plan Act. I hope these investments will help provide academic enrichment and help more kids reach their full potential while also being a great resource for working parents too,” said Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.


“Libraries and community centers can really improve the quality of life in a neighborhood,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “Thanks to our American Rescue Plan, this funding will upgrade public spaces in twelve communities and create new opportunities for kids to continue learning outside of school.”


“Community centers are vital to bring Rhode Islanders together and support programming and services for residents of all ages,” said Congressman Seth Magaziner. “This federal funding will improve access to services that will benefit public health, provide workforce training, and set Rhode Islanders up for success at school and in their jobs.” 


“Thanks to the historic American Rescue Plan Act, Rhode Islanders will benefit from these federal funds that strengthen our cities and towns,” said Congressman Gabo Amo. “Whether it is students enriching their education, workers seeking additional job training, or residents enjoying healthier lives, this grant program will make a real difference. I’m proud to support this effort to invest in community centers across our state.”


The announcement was made at the construction site of Smithfield’s center, which involves a complete restoration of the currently vacant East Smithfield Neighborhood Center. The Governor was joined by Smithfield Town Manager Randy Rossi, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva who is also receiving a round one award, and other state and local leaders.


Located in the Esmond neighborhood of Smithfield, the restored center will include a 1,700-square-foot main hall and a 2,367-square-foot east wing. In addition to a large community space, the center will include a conference room, kitchenette, office space, and a mobile computer lab. The Town of Smithfield will be partnering with Tri-County Community Action Agency to provide GED preparation programs, job placement programs, and mental health programs.  


The town is also partnering with the Smithfield School District, the Smithfield YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Rhode Island to offer out-of-school programming, an early learning center, recreation camps, homework clubs, and intensive tutoring. PrepareRI support for FAFSA financial aid completion and student internships is also planned.  


The center will also have a role in the town’s overall disaster response, serving as a cooling center during extreme heat emergencies and as a charging station during extended power outages. Both the Smithfield Fire Department and Emergency Management Agency plan to use the center for training space as well as public education. 


“I am grateful to the many community partners who worked together to bring state-of-the-art technology to the renovated East Smithfield Neighborhood Center while maintaining the historic fabric of this treasured town asset," said Smithfield Town Manager Randy Rossi. "It is my hope that the Neighborhood Center provides enjoyment to all of our residents, young and old, for many years to come.” 


The State’s Community Learning Center Municipal Grant program was created in the Governor’s FY 2023 budget and funded with a total of $81.7 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis, and round two grant announcements are forthcoming. Federal guidelines require that the grant funding supports capital costs and that each center will provide targeted programming to improve education outcomes, support workforce training and provide health monitoring for a minimum of five years. 



Round 1 Approved Projects:


1. Barrington ($814,773): Renovate and expand the Bay Spring Community Center to create modern spaces suitable for programs and services in the areas of education, work and health monitoring. 

2. Bristol ($1,751,142): Renovate the Rogers Free Library, including the addition of a maker space, new HVAC equipment, new broadband-capable equipment and construction of additional group and private study spaces. 

3. Cumberland ($2,618,159): Create a wellness hub that ties together the Amaral Building and Heritage Park on Mill Street. 

4. East Greenwich ($668,523): Build an addition to Swift Community Center to not only provide much-need classroom and conference room space but also allow for the more effective use of the building’s existing footprint to deliver a broader range of services. The Swift Community Center offers a variety of programs catering to all ages, focusing on health screenings, educational pursuits and fitness activities. 

5. East Providence ($4,043,761): Build a community center that will provide space for education, workforce development, health monitoring and recreational activities. The space will provide meeting space for workforce education and business development workshops, filling a critical need for business and workforce development in the city. 

6. Hopkinton/Richmond ($1,246,730): Create a center for Hopkinton and Richmond to address the urgent needs of their students and community, including job placement and employment education supports and education supports that focus on reducing absenteeism and improving RICAS scores and FAFSA completion. The center will include a computer lab to ensure residents have accessible internet access and offer a dedicated telehealth space.  

7. Newport/Middletown ($2,900,764): Make improvements to the Florence Gray Center for a joint Newport-Middletown Community Center that will support and expand programming in the areas of student learning, workforce development and health monitoring and services. 

8. Providence-Elmwood ($4,884,000): Serve as the first Providence community center managed directly by the Recreation Department that will serve as a central location for community-based organizations to provide workforce development, educational and health services. The partnership will provide community-based organizations with programming spaces, technology access, connections with the local community and workforce incubator services to create a programming hub near the South Providence, West End and Elmwood neighborhoods. 

9. Providence-Joslin ($3,665,000): Create Providence’s first resilience hub that provides educational, health and workforce development services to Olneyville and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Providence Office of Sustainability will coordinate services out of the Joslin Recreation Center in collaboration with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Nuevas Voces Program and the Olyneyville Neighborhood Association. 

10. Smithfield ($1,813,952): Restore the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center, which is in a health equity zone and between two senior affordable housing complexes, to serve as a multi-generational center. 

11. South Kingstown ($2,520,044): Enhance the Peace Dale Library by providing robust public internet access, digital literacy navigation assistance, education support, and workforce preparedness assistance. The expansion includes new features, such as a classroom and private booth spaces that will support programming focused on community workforce development and education, as well as dedicated space to access health resources and telehealth.

12. Westerly ($1,653,614): Provide a single location where people can access healthcare, workforce training, educational resources, recreational opportunities and additional services. The main tenants will be Wood River Health, the Westerly Education Center and the Town of Westerly Recreation. 


The community learning centers will directly support Governor McKee’s three main goals for Rhode Island: Improving educational outcomes, raising incomes, and creating a healthier state.


"By investing in support systems for students and families like Community Learning Centers, we are making direct investments in the future success of Rhode Island," said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. "I commend Governor McKee for his commitment to our children and his dedication to expanding access to out-of-school learning opportunities that will help students get ahead. I look forward to seeing the positive impact these centers will have in our communities."


"By offering a diverse array of programs aimed at enhancing education, providing workforce training, and promoting holistic wellness, these centers will empower individuals to reach their full potential, equipping them with the skills and resources needed to thrive in today's dynamic economy," said Department of Labor & Training Director Matthew Weldon. "Together, we forge a path towards a brighter, more prosperous future for the state, where every Rhode Islander has the chance to succeed." 


“The Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner supports any and all efforts that improve college and workforce preparedness,” said Dr. Shannon Gilkey, Rhode Island’s postsecondary commissioner. “Adding spaces to train and learn, improving access to the internet, and providing in-person counseling and support for educational and workforce development initiatives should have a material effect on postsecondary attainment of degrees and credentials that are absolutely necessary for life-long success. Building and delivering these services at the municipal level helps to meet people where they are, and I commend all of the cities and towns who are participating in the community learning centers program.” 


This project was supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number CPFFN0169 awarded to the State of Rhode Island by the U.S. Department of Treasury.