The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved $3.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds last week to support 30 Pre-K classrooms for two years.
The grant will go towards Smart Start of Forsyth County on behalf of the Pre-K Priority, a collaborative organization working to make high-quality preschool accessible.
CEO of Family Services of Forsyth County Traci Ross said children that have access to quality early education go on to be more successful in school than those who don’t.
But at the moment, Ross said most four-year-olds in Forsyth County aren’t receiving Pre-K services.
According to an equity report from the Pre-K Priority, in 2019-20, only 27% of eligible children in Forsyth County were enrolled in NC Pre-K, compared to 67% of children in Guilford County.
“These four-year-olds are truly our future as a community, and we need to give them the best start possible, which is why we developed this model,” she said.
One element of that model is family engagement. Ross said that involves talking with parents about what they need and what they should expect in the school environment.
“What we recognize is that parents or guardians are the experts on their children, and also that they are their child's first educator,” Ross said.
The model also includes success coaches, outcome tracking, and professional support, like coaching and retention bonuses, for Pre-K educators.
President and CEO of Smart Start of Forsyth County Louis Finney said Latino Community Services will also provide translation services that had previously been lacking.
“That’s support in two ways,” Finney said. “Particularly, translation services should be supporting those teachers, but also those classroom environments, even supporting those children.”
According to a Pre-K Priority press release, the project will impact 540 students and their families as well as 60 educators.
Ross said the focus of the project is to build a strong and sustainable foundation for quality Pre-K in Forsyth County.
“We want to ensure that our current classrooms and educators have the resources and supports they need before we can continue adding more on to that,” she said.
The project is expected to begin in January, though Finney said they’ve already begun planning for implementation.
Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.