Grant to benefit local early childhood education

Published 1:31 pm Monday, November 5, 2018

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Early childhood education in three public school divisions of Western Tidewater — Isle of Wight, Franklin and Southampton — will benefit from a $1 million grant bestowed by the Obici Healthcare Foundation. The announcement was made on Wednesday afternoon in the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

This shared grant is part of the foundation’s new overall strategy in not only preventing illnesses and diseases, but also addressing other factors that can affect the longterm health and growth of individuals and communities. One of the latter is early childhood education.

The organization looked at recent information from the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program, which foundation CEO Annette Beuchler stated “indicates that 40 percent of students enter kindergarten ‘not ready’ in terms of demonstrating key school readiness skills. … Consequently, an investment in the early years of life is one of the best investments we can make.”

The Virginia General Assembly has already made an investment, reportedly at nearly $6M, which will be devoted to improving preschoolers’ learning. In turn, the foundation is building on that action.

“Improving the level of early childhood education is the primary path for improving overall academic

achievement and ultimately better health status,” stated Beuchler.

So the Obici group is supporting a pilot preschool extension of the VKRP in the aforementioned localities. The foundation will also support the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, which enables teachers to get periodic individualized professional development. This will be for Head Start, faith-based and private classrooms. Further, the group is backing the pilot of the STREAMin3 (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) Curriculum in Virginia Preschool Initiative and Head Start classrooms.

Dr. Jim Thornton, superintendent of Isle of Wight County Public Schools, stated, “This is an incredible an opportunity to support our efforts in creating high quality experiences for our preschool students. The resources and professional development we will receive through this partnership will better prepare our youngest learners for success in school.”

Tracy Agnew, editor of The Suffolk News-Herald, contributed to this article.