SCPS gets funding for early childhood academies

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Southside, Wright will have pre-kindergarten classes for children, parents this fall

By Ashley Wilkins

Two Shelbyville elementary schools will soon take part in a statewide program aimed at better preparing children for kindergarten.

Toyota and the United Way announced Monday morning that Shelbyville’s Southside Elementary will be one of 14 new schools chosen to launch a bornlearning Academy, a school-based workshop dedicated to turning everyday moments into learning opportunities.

The decision was a strategic one, according to Program Coordinator, Helen Carroll.

“We wanted to identify some schools in Southeast Kentucky and Fayette County – where a large number of our team members were located.  Some schools already had some programs started,” Carroll said, adding that they sought schools that had the capacity and the need for such programs.

“We reached out to the schools and they applied,” she said.

The announcement came during a statewide early childhood learning conference called Ready Kids at the Galt House in Louisville, where more than 1,000 teachers and educators were in attendance. 

During the conference, Kentucky also announced another addition of 25 Kentucky All Stars bornlearning Academies, which is part of a $1.4 million investment funded by Kentucky’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge federal grant.

One of those named school’s was Shelbyville’s Wright Elementary.

With the announcement of a total of 39 new academies, along with the 21 preexisting academies, there are now 60 bornlearning Academies across the state.

The program, which consists of six workshops, typically takes place once per month and is designed to help children from birth to five-years-old prepare for kindergarten.

“The child’s first teacher is the parent. That’s why we call it bornlearning,”Carroll explained, but said a lot of people don’t know what that means.

“We will give you the tools to be the teacher,” she said.

The program is free and open to the community, Carroll said, adding that your child does not have to attend one of the chosen schools to take part in the program, and there is no limit to the number of families that can participate.

“We encourage the schools to take as many people as they can handle,” Carroll said.

“There is a dinner before the class.  A lot of families do not have time to sit down for dinners together,” she said.

Each class is expected to last around two hours, including dinner and a family activity constituting the last 30 minutes. In between the children will separate into a different room with a childcare provider and will partake in a lesson related to the subject material for that day while the parents engage in their lesson.

As a first-year school in the program, Southside will receive $11,500 in funding, with $6,000 in cash going directly to pay for food and various program incentives and the remaining $5,500 to cover the cost of training and program materials.

If Southside follows the curriculum, Carroll said the school would receive $3,000 next year to continue the program.  Carroll explained that the amount of funding is reduced after the first year because they anticipate schools to have established relationships with other businesses in the area, like restaurants that could possibly provide class meals.

Ryan Allan, public relations coordinator for Shelby County Public Schools stated that the funding from the state for Wright Elementary’s program is about $1,000 less than Southside’s but said, “The implementation parameters are the same for both grants.”

While the program may still be too new to assess the educational value to the children, the educators have determined that 95 to 98 percent of the parents feel they graduate the academy informed about their child’s learning and development.

Twenty-one schools already having completed at least one year of the program and with all Kentucky kindergarten students taking the common assessment, Carroll explained they now have a means to measure the results of the program and expect to evaluate those results in the near future.

According to the Kentucky Board of Education, half of Kentucky’s children are not prepared for kindergarten.  With this startling information in hand, in 2012, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) made a commitment to provide $1 million in grant funds over the next five years to expand the previously existing program provided by United Way.

Toyota is currently halfway through their commitment to the program, but Carroll says the company may continue providing funding if they are happy with the success of the program.

Training for the educators will take place today and another will take place on July 15, and schools should be ready for the program to begin in August or September. Graduation for the participating families should take place in April or May.

Shelby County School Superintendent James Neihof spoke of his anticipation and appreciation for the program’s arrival in Shelby County.

“We appreciate the efforts of the first lady of Kentucky, the funding commitment of Toyota Motor Company, and the leadership of Metro United Way to partner with us in our kindergarten readiness work. The materials and the funds provided by bornlearning fit perfectly into the kindergarten readiness work within our strategic plan,” he said.