Multiple 3- and 4-year-olds were among those picking up shovels and breaking ground Tuesday morning on the new Sally and Mack Brown Rise School of Austin, a non-profit preschool that’s been a cherished project for the former Texas coach and his wife.
Upon completion later this summer, the $5.6 million facility will give Rise School organizers a permanent home instead of bouncing around from church to church.
The 17,000-square foot facility will be able to accommodate 80 children between ages 12 months and 6 years old.
The Rise School, which gained national attention thanks to legendary Alabama coach Gene Stallings, specializes in helping special needs children, including those with Down syndrome.
Executive director Emily Greer said the new facility will have eight classrooms, a music room, a library and an indoor physical therapy gym named the “James Street Little Longhorn Lab.”
Street, the quarterback who led the Longhorns to the 1969 national championship, died in September.
Steve Hicks, a member of the UT System Board of Regents, and his wife Donna helped raise $3 million of the necessary funding. The project is the end result of a meeting Sally Brown organized at the Driskill Hotel in the spring of 2003, according to Donna Hicks.
One woman at the meeting needed help with her children. “And here was the big question, how much money do you need for this first class? And everybody just kind of looked down,” Donna Hicks said. “She said, ‘I need $150,000.’”
Sally Brown and Donna Hicks held a fundraiser and rounded up that first $150,000. The Rise School of Austin first opened several months later in August 2003.
Sally and Mack Brown did not attend the Tuesday groundbreaking ceremony due to their travel schedule, school officials said. They are expected to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony later this summer.
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