Lisa Capps, chief development officer of Ember Hope, believes that the campus in Newton — formally known as Youthville — needs a hug.


Oct. 10 she spoke with the Newton Lions Club about what that hug could look like — service project ideas like painting a barn on the campus. She also encouraged the civic club to take a tour of the campus, especially Eby Learning Center.


It is Eby that might get the first big hug — as according to Capps the school building that once provided an education to both Youthville residents and community children could have students back in it as early as 2019.


“There is a need that we can help fill for the community,” Capps said. “... Our girls right now are doing online education, as are some of the kids from the school district who are in alternative education … It is not very successful for either of us. We are hoping that by reopening the school we can help both populations.”


Deb Hamm, superintendent of USD 373, told the Kansan that the school district and Ember Hope have been in talks for several months to create a plan to reopen the school. Many of those details have not been finalized.


“We continue to look at how to best educate the students who reside in Newton, whether it is kids who are born here and stay here or kids who are only here for a little while,” Hamm said. “Our role is to make sure we are providing the best learning opportunity that we can.”


However, there is a model that the organizations can look at — the district previously offered educational services at Eby Learning Center before it closed in 2011.


“We have been looking at what their needs are moving forward, and what some of our needs are and how we can partner together and move forward,” Hamm said. “ … Based on previous agreements … we provide the staffing, we provide the curriculum, we provide administration and that kind of thing. We provide all the costs of educating a child outside of the building (expense).”


Hamm said there is a possibility of a small pilot program starting in January, with a larger program in the building in 2020.


There is plenty of renovation to do to the building, which was shuttered when the campus was closed in 2011.


New ADA compliant bathrooms, technology updates, new carpet, a new HVAC system, a new roof and new nonbreakable glass doors and windows are all on the list. Capps said a new HVAC system has already been purchased by Ember Hope.


“The school was opened in 1975, and it has never been updated since it was built,” Capps said. “... Structurally it is very sound. … It is not a place you would go and have a fresh face and go to class. It is cinderblock walls.”