The Akron school board Monday night approved committing a half million dollars to help break ground in March on a project to benefit the city’s Summit Lake neighborhood.

The partnership with the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA), the Akron Summit County Community Action (ASCA) and the city of Akron will make the Summit Lake Family Opportunity Center a reality.

The district will host two kindergarten classrooms in the $4.35 million building. Neighboring schools like McEbright would benefit from a local kindergarten option as early as the fall of 2014.

Superintendent David James said the project bridges community and family support with education.

“It’s a one-stop shop for the families as well as the kids,” James said after the board meeting.

On his way to a City Council meeting, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic couldn’t agree more with James’ characterization of the “good experiment.”

Plusquellic said the project aims to revitalize the Summit Lake neighborhood by bringing together educational head starts, kindergarten classrooms, a health center and all the supports that AMHA offers for adults, which include career counselors, a Summit County Department of Job and Family Services case manager, an early literacy library and a Boys and Girls Club.

“All of those things sort of connect up and provide opportunities — especially for folks who are on the lower end of poverty,” he said.

The city donated the land for the project.

Board President Jason Haas sees value in helping to ease the transition into the classroom for the kids.

“There’s enough culture shock going on when they enter that first year of school anyway,” he said. The kindergarten classes would keep families and children learning inside their respective communities.

The multifunctional, 20,000-square-foot complex is primarily funded by a $4 million grant awarded in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Akron schools joined AMHA, ASCA and the city of Akron in selecting Cavanaugh Building Corp. as the contractor. Under the design/build model, Cavanaugh would be held solely responsible for all project aspects, including total cost and time of completion.

Paul Flesher, executive director of Facility Planning and Capital Improvement at Akron Public Schools, said the project’s design/build eliminates unexpected costs, but he said the board approved setting aside funds for the project in case “there is something that occurs that is a complete unknown.”

The $511,651 outlined in the contract would go toward the building and playground construction, technology and furniture.

Flesher said unused money would be returned to the district.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or