HeadStart Child and Family Development Program  
Renovated K-Mart 
Hastings, NE  
The Head Start Family Resource Center in Hastings, Nebraska is in a renovated K-Mart. The building houses 13 classrooms, as well as 4 larger rooms for infants and toddlers, a parent room, a resource center for people who have recently immigrated to the US, computer labs, cafeterias, conference rooms and offices. The building has large outdoor playgrounds, opening up to the cornfields of Nebraska. There are many services available at the Head Start, including an immunization clinic, summer programs, after school programs, early childhood education, as well as numerous programs for migrant families. The school has around 120 HeadStart students (ages 3-5), 200 Title I Migrant students (ages 3-21), and 64 Early Socialization students (ages 0-3). The center employs over 100 people. The people at the HeadStart are truly pleased to be able to make such a successful adaptation of an old building work for them. Most of the people who work at the HeadStart used to shop at the K-Mart, and they make references about having to go to "class in the dressing rooms".
The old HeadStart building was lost to bad weather, the high winds and rains of the midwestern plains. There were several options available for the new location, and plans were even sketched out for building a new HeadStart from the ground up. In the end, the old K-Mart won out, and the reasoning was similar to that of most renovated big box projects: cost efficiency, the pre-built parking lot, and location, location, location. Superstores generally are placed in areas where the roads lead from all over-- especially in rural areas where the original superstore may have served an area of several towns or counties. This K-Mart was no different, and several major roads lead there easily. The purchasing of the building went smoothly, although it took a long time. In this case, there were several parties at work: one party owned the land, the building was owned by another, and K-Mart leased from the building owner. This is often the case with big box buildings, and as the people at the HeadStart shared, the more parties that are involved, the longer it can take to seal the deal. The building was empty for 10 years, and the sale was complete in March of 2001. Renovation took 6-9 months, and the doors were opened for school in September of 2001.
There are many classrooms for the wide age range served by the school. This room is used for the 3-5 age range. The dining area in the school was once the automotive center at the K-Mart. Renovation included changing the bays for cars into a kitchen. An early childhood room.
The building has worked out perfectly. The space has been adequate, and the HeadStart is currently using every square foot. In fact, the adaptation has worked out so well that the HeadStart is already looking at an empty Wal-Mart in a town up the road in the case of future expansion. The HeadStart has been in the renovated K-Mart for 3 years in August 2004.

The land surrounding this empty K-Mart has been a plus too, making for large playgrounds that look out over a typical Nebraska landscape: cornfields. The natural surroundings have led to education about the land in the midwest, and the seeding, growing, and harvesting of a cornfield is all studied and watched first hand at the school. This is an aspect of the building of which K-Mart surely never got to take advantage.

Exterior renovation on the building was minimal. They basically just painted it, put on a new roof, and put up a new sign. The interior renovation, however was extensive. Everything was re-built-- heat, air conditioning, electricity, lights, walls, ceilings. Renovating a big box means starting with one big room and maybe a little storage area in the back. Since this is a school, on top of the 70+ rooms that were built, they had to build 19 bathrooms, which means a lot of new plumbing. There are 3 major hallways that run the length of the building in 3 directions. The less space that is used for hallways, the more space is available for classrooms. And at this point, the HeadStart needs every bit of the space that the building has to offer.

The Center is a busy place that services a very large group of people. Within the last 10 years, the migrant population from Hispanic nations has grown remarkably in Nebraska, and the region is lacking in facilities to accommodate the growing Hispanic population. That is where the HeadStart comes in, offering everything from immunization to English as a second language for people of all ages. The fact that there are currently 600 people from 8 different counties taking advantage of the Migrant Services offered by HeadStart tells us about the changing face of the midwest.




back to big box map

Computer lab at the HeadStart.


Cornfields surrounding the HeadStart.