Local & State Leaders Visit “First Class Pre-K Program,” Hope to Expand in Lee County

Local and state leaders visited Beauregard Elementary School to visit their First Class Pre-K classrooms.

A voluntary program for 4-year-olds funded through grants by the Department of Early Childhood Education.

This program allows 4-year-olds to be ahead of the game when it comes to learning.

“90% of the the brain is developed in the first five years of life so its really critical to help children with early vocabulary, early math and science, those experimental things that will help with them through kindergarten and so on,” said Allison Muhlendorf, Executive Director for Alabama School Readiness Alliance.

Research shows, 4-year-olds, who are enrolled in this program, outperform their peers in reading and math. They are also more likely to graduate from high school and find success in the workplace.

This is why Lee County schools have five First Class Pre-K programs in their district, two of them, at Beauregard Elementary School, two at Beulah Elementary school and one at Loachapoka Elementary school.

“If a child comes in and isn’t ready to learn and read with some skills already there, they are already behind. What this program allows us to do is have quality teaching, learning and instruction where they might not have the opportunity. Going into kindergarten, they are ahead of their classmates who didn’t have that opportunity. So, it’s imperative,” said Lee County School District Superintendent Dr. James McCoy.

But, the Alliance said it’s not enough. There are only enough classrooms for 8% of Lee County Four-year- olds compared to 25% in the state of Alabama.

That’s why they are pushing our state legislators to increase their investments by $20 million this year.

“The $20 million increase would add 160 new classrooms statewide and about 2800 more students and take the state to 30% of 4-year-olds with access or even more than that,” said Muhlendorf.

Sen.Tom Whately has been a part of this since day one and says it’s crucial in the development of our kids.

“You are going to better prepare these children going into elementary and then six years down the road when they are entering Middle School. We are seeing those kids have a higher reading level and they are on mark for being on level for reading and that in turns saves us money and make us a better education system,” said Sen. Whatley.

Alabama leads the nation in this program, so they want to continue to set the trend.

“This has certainly been a success story we want to find ways to fund this program to maximize its full potential,” said Alabama State Representative Joe Lovvorn.

If the $20 million is approved and the state continues to fund their program, by 2023, their decade long vision, will allow every Alabama family the opportunity to enroll their 4-year-old in this program.

Lee County is also looking to add 4 more First Class Pre-k programs in Smiths Station.

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