Groups Explore Ways For Universal Pre-K Education In Forsyth County

Groups Explore Ways For Universal Pre-K Education In Forsyth County

7:23am Apr 10, 2019
Community leaders gathered at Winston-Salem State University on Tuesday, April 9,2018 to talk about pre-k access in Forsyth County. (left) Beth Day-Hairston with WSSU, (center) Bob Feikema, with Family Services, (right) Dr. Laura Gerald with the Kate B. Charitable Trust. KERI BROWN/WFDD

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is providing a grant to study access to pre-k education in Forsyth County. It will include data and community engagement to find ways to address the issue.

The more than $800,000 grant will fund a feasibility study and community outreach events aimed at providing high quality education to every four year-old in the county.

“We are trying to support the community’s exploration of the topic,” says Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “We know in Forsyth County that we really have a lot of our low-income children and children of color who are at risk when they enter kindergarten and so those are particular concerns.”

The money will support PRE-K Priority, a coalition of non-profit groups led by Family Services. The initiative tackles three questions: Do we have the needed facilities to expand pre-k? Are there enough qualified teachers? And what are the needs for parents?

“It will hopefully show that young people when they receive this quality education the outcomes in high school and life,” says Department of Education at Winston-Salem State University Chair Beth Day-Hairston. “It helps the community when you have children that are adequately prepared. It helps families. It helps society. So that data should drive the initiative to do other things to impact child education.”

April Scott attended the press conference held at WSSU to announce the initiative. Her three year-old son attends a pre-k program on the campus.

“My baby wasn’t really speaking and he was kind of shy, and they brought the shyness out of him. He’s excelling and I love that. With parents like me and his dad working all of the time, it helps out a lot because he’s here and around his peers. It’s making a big difference.”

Some North Carolina counties, including Mecklenburg and Durham, have recently passed measures to provide universal pre-k education.

“Some of our competing cities [and] urban centers are making investments out of county budgets, out of increases in property taxes and so forth to really accomplish this goal,” says Bob Feikema, Family Services President and CEO. “We’re not prescribing what needs to be done here in Forsyth County. That’s something that we need to have as a part of this process, what’s the best way to do it? And there we’re going to have to involve our civic leaders, our business leaders, our elected officials in helping to make that determination.”

A recent study by Harvard University ranks Forsyth County fifth worst among the counties it studied nationwide for poor children moving up the income ladder.

Results of the feasibility study are expected to be complete by the end of the year.

 *Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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