Preschool Programs Needed to Serve Community

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by The Brunswick News

A St. Simons Island church is taking matters into its own hands to provide early education for children before kindergarten when a few members realized getting their youngsters into a preschool locally was not so easy.

They had to put their children on a waiting list at the state-funded public school program, so Rebekah White at First Baptist Church St. Simons decided to lead the charge to create a preschool program that serves children from 6 weeks old to 5 years old. It took three years to meet state requirements to operate the program, which will open in August and serve about 70 students.

It will use the Creative Curriculum, which is approved by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

About 60 percent of 4-year-olds in Georgia were enrolled in a state-funded pre-K program in 2017, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. While that is higher than in many states, there are still about 40 percent of children who are missing out on a crucial year or two of academic and social learning prior to kindergarten. Also, while Georgia ranks eighth according to the institute’s 2017 report in access for 4 year olds, the state does not fund access for 3 year olds.

Locally, Glynn County ranked near the bottom last summer, according to data from Georgia Family Connection Partnership, at 151st out of 159 counties in low income preschool enrollment. That was with about 32 percent of low-income families enrolling students in preschool.

That is why programs like the new one coming to First Baptist St. Simons are so important.

Education statistics show that children who have been in a preschool program prior to entering kindergarten perform better than those who have not. Preschool provides children with more than just an education on identifying letters, numbers, colors and other rudimentary steps in education. It also allows children to begin developing their social skills by interacting with their peers in a controlled environment. The social aspects of preschool are crucial in the development of a well-rounded student and cannot be underestimated when it comes to children’s achievement when they enter elementary school.

Ideally, every child by the age of 4 would have free and public access to a pre-K program. Georgia is undoubtedly a pioneer in developing a public pre-K program, but as long as there are waiting lists and 40 percent of 4 year olds not in the public school programs, others will have to pick up the slack.

We commend First Baptist St. Simons for taking the steps to be approved by the department of early education and hope to see more programs emerge all over the county, especially in areas where more low-income families reside.

Where there is a need, our community can step up and provide.

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