Jackson State School District is expanding kindergarten services through a $ 9 million grant from the state that allows them to care for more than 4-year-olds in the city.
The grant comes from a nationwide early learning collaboration program, which is a pre-learning program consisting of partnerships between school districts, Head Start agencies, child care centers, and nonprofit groups. State employees earned early training high marks for quality in national reportsbut have previously been criticized for restricted access.
The JPS Collaboration will serve an additional 460 students and is part of the transition to twice the number of students served across the state by the fall of 2022. By August, 30 collaborations will serve more than 6,000 children nationwide.
Jackson’s collaborations include JPS, the Lottie W. Thornton Center for Early Childhood at Jackson State University, the Little Saints Academy and the Hinds County Human Resources Agency. It will serve 1,226 students, about as many as are currently enrolled in the district’s kindergartens.
“The idea of cooperation is really to increase access to the same high quality they would feel in the school curriculum, and to provide the same resources and professional development so that you can improve teaching and learning on both sides,” he said. Michael Cormack, Deputy Head of JPS.
The collaboration will follow the state’s recently released “Mississippi Beginnings” previous training program, and will pursue professional development opportunities once a month on Saturdays. The grant will allow the district to reimburse teachers for this extra time, and trainings will also be open to other child care professionals who are not involved in the collaboration.
JPS Superintendent Eric Green said in a statement that the grant would help prepare more students for success in school. Cormack said the expansion will eliminate the need to consider financial needs or waiting lists that were previously part of the JPS admission process beforehand. The program is currently recruiting students and recruiting teachers, and the county is focusing on getting parents to register earlier so they can plan accordingly.
“I think it’s really interesting that with Jackson’s accession, we’ll be the biggest collaborator and help build the scale of what Mississippi did,” Cormack said. “Ultimately, we hope that by proving this concept and proving that kindergarten works, we can help expand the ability to serve all four-year-olds across the state. We see this as part of our challenge, demonstrating what is possible here. “