By Alyssa Schnugg
The L.O.U. Early Learning Collaborative has been chosen to receive an additional $2 million in funding to provide high-quality, early childhood education programs to 4-year-old students.
For the Oxford, Lafayette and University communities, that means four more pre-K classrooms.
The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the ELC program, which provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services.
In Oxford, a community with limited preschool options, these funds will add two classes at Mary Kathy Head Start and two at Willie Price Lab School. This brings 76 new seats to the existing 242 seats to benefit both city and county students.
Most of the funds will be used to hire four new teachers and four teacher assistants.
The Mississippi Department of Education issued the request for proposals on July 26 and accepted applications through Sept. 21. Oxford was one of five collaboratives to be chosen.
Tamara Hillmer, director of Early Childhood and Reading Development, said after reviewing numbers on eligible pre-K programs, just about every available program had a waiting list, while others were expensive.
“When looking at kindergarten readiness scores and where the children attended pre-K, the largest group attending the programs at Oxford and Lafayette,” Hillmer said. “The second largest group attended Head Start and right after that, were children who were listed as ‘none’ or ‘home.’”
The funds will also be used to help improve and enhance current programs at Bramlett Elementary and Lafayette Lower Elementary.
“We wanted to add seats but both districts are maxed out and are both building new elementary schools,” she said. “But we will be enhancing and improving what’s already in place there.”
Funds will also be used for continuing education for pre-K teachers, materials and technology upgrades.
Hillmer said the LOU collaborative will continue to receive the funding annually as long as it adheres to the program’s requirements.
Oxford School District Communications contributed to this story.