RANTOUL — For years, hundreds of school children have prepared for kindergarten at the Early Childhood Education Center in Rantoul.

The facility, home to Rantoul’s Head Start program, has a new look, thanks to a major renovation project of the building. It provides year-round services to children from 6 weeks old through 5 years of age. The center serves 120 students at a time and employs 32 people.

The public was able to view the renovations at an open house last week.

Dalitso S. Sulamyo, chief executive officer of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, gave welcoming remarks. He said the work included not only renovation of the building. It also "addressed some (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance issues."

The program is primarily funded by the Illinois Board of Education.

Rantoul Mayor Chuck Smith also spoke.

Smith said the village is fortunate to have such a facility.

"It offers an opportunity for children who otherwise wouldn’t have it," Smith said. "As we all know, education is very important. It sets their course for the rest of their lives. It influences behavior, influences the family."

The renovation included repainted classrooms, new windows, a newly paved parking lot, new signage and new preschool playground equipment. The facility’s courtyard was also upgraded. The program also received some "expansion money so we will be able to serve more families, and some classrooms went from half-day to full-day classrooms," Site Manager Erin Ragsdale said.

The building houses eight classrooms, a multi-purpose room, kitchen, offices, conference room and library. It also houses the Smile Healthy dental program.

Assistant Site Manager Sherri Frichtl said the program also provides home-based services, "which goes into the rural communities."

Frichtl has been with Head Start since 1996 when the program was offered at Broadmeadow Elementary and she was a teacher’s aide. During its Chanute days, the current facility, located on Nightingale Court, was a dental clinic.

Frichtl said when the walls were repainted, more neutral colors were used.

"Sometimes the bright colors will overstimulate the children," Frichtl said. "Before, we would have lime-colored, blue, yellow red."

Having been with Head Start for so long, Frichtl said some people she taught are now bringing their children there.

"Sometimes I will call them their mom or dad’s name because they look so much alike," Frichtl said.

As assistant site manager, Frichtl oversees the classroom teams, lesson planning, newsletters and daily operations.

Frichtl said the staff is glad the renovation work has been completed and their routine can return to normal.