Growing Kids through Preschool Programming

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Thursday July 19, 2012

For South Burlington residents thinking about having a baby, expecting a baby, or who have one already, now would be a good time to look into one of the preschool programs through Growing Kids South Burlington, a community collaboration with the School District and Child Care Resources, according to Superintendent David Young.

Young shared up-to-date information about the preschool program at the July 11 School Board meeting. Growing Kids South Burlington is in its second year, and it helps to organize the programs and make sure they comply with state and city standards. The district is striving for more affordability and accessibility in having these services for children ages 3–5. The district has formed partnerships with the following 16 early childhood programs thus far to help accomplish this goal: Ascension Child Care, Burlington Children’s Space, Childcare Resource, The Children’s School, Discovery Preschool (at Faith United Methodist), Fletcher Allen Y Time, Heartworks-Burlington, Heartworks-Shelburne, Heartworks-Williston, Pine Forest, Robin’s Nest, Shelburne Nursery, Stepping Stones, Trinity Children’s Center, UVM Campus, and the YMCA.

There are four new partners expected for next year.

Board member Martin LaLonde asked if parents/guardians of English Language Learners and financially needy children know about these programs since they would benefit greatly. Continued early communication is key to getting the word out, particularly pre-birth communication, Young said.

For FY 2012, some programs only have one South Burlington child enrolled, and others, such as the YMCA, have up to 66 children. Overall, the district has 159 full-time and part-time students enrolled in these programs. According to Young, the district sends a check to each partner program for the Average Daily Membership (ADM) of SB full-time (10 hours/week) children they serve.

The payment to the partners is $2,600 per full-time child and for each one, the district draws $5,970 from the State Education Fund without increasing residential property taxes. The total cost for FY 2012 (payments at $2,600 per full-time child, the Child Care Resources contract, and the preschool collaborative with SB’s Kids and Fitness) is $481,520.05.

Growing Kids South Burlington has several accomplishments and future plans laid out in its May 2012 Project Report. The report is organized into five categories:

Community Connections: Growing Kids South Burlington aims to participate in at least two events per year and hold a community-wide event each year (Day of Play was one such event). Developing new ways to promote healthy eating is also important. The report says that there will be continued support for the South Burlington Family Center and South Burlington High School Service Project, and they will continue informing the public about its activities via a mailing list, its blog, and The Other Paper articles.

Early Literacy: The program encourages literacy with a summer book mobile,  Book Boxes, and the Ready, Set, Read! program (a collaboration with the library; incoming kindergarteners who read over 100 books receive a prize). Additionally, they surveyed South Burlington Early Childhood Education providers to better understand their needs in an Early Literacy Outreach program.

Kindergarten Registration: They’ve completed this project by updating the Transition Questionnaire, published articles, distributed flyers across the community with the registration reminder, and continue to be in contact with registration coordinators at the three elementary schools. They also plan to distribute kindergarten transition totes next year.

Needs Assessment: Three surveys were distributed. The Kindergarten teachers survey asked if most students were registered on the first day of school and if special needs children were identified as such prior to the first day. The results were similar to the 2010-2011 school year. The parent survey asked about people’s perceptions about raising children in South Burlington; the results are expected to be announced in the fall. The UVM Health Survey results found that the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and screening tools in the Bright Futures Guidelines were the most commonly used in assessing development. The VNA, Children’s Integrated Services, and HowardCenter yielded as resources used for patients with additional needs.

Program quality: Two informational meetings were hosted regarding  a shared professional development workgroup; additional meetings will be scheduled in the upcoming school year. To date the group has accomplished the making of the program Aim for the Stars!, a mentoring program for childcare centers and home care providers in order to help increase their STARS ratings. Additionally, a $29,000 grant was received from the VT Community Preschool Collaborative for South Burlington’s Kids and Fitness becoming a pre-kindergarten partner. South Burlington Kids and Fitness recently hired a licensed teacher last fall, and Growing Kids South Burlington helped South Burlington Kids and Fitness with its first budget template for contracts with school districts.

To keep up with Growing Kids South Burlington and give your child the rich educational, social, and physical experience at one of the early childhood programs, visit the program blog: http://growingkidssouthburlington.blogspot.com/. The School Board will also have updates about the School District preschool program in the future.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent