Donation to add 4-year-old class
Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 12, 2017
Picayune School District’s Early Learning Pre-K Collaborative received a donation worth $50,000 that will be used to provide 20 more 4-year-olds with school instruction.
The donation came from Alliance Health Center, a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, said Dr. Pamela Thomas, director of Picayune’s Early Head Start program.
With this donation, the company now donates to school districts in eight states, including Indiana, Arizona, Mississippi, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Thomas said this is the first year the company has donated to a school district in Mississippi.
Donations made to school districts are tax deductible, and therefore allow the company to decide where its tax dollars go, Thomas said.
She said the funds will be used to expand the services provided by the school district’s Pre-K program, which provides care and instruction services to 4-year-olds transitioning out of the Early Head Start program. Thomas is the director of Picayune’s Early Head Start program, which provides care and learning instruction to qualifying families for their children from birth to age 3. Since children typically don’t start kindergarten until age 5, that leaves a gap in their instruction, which is where the 4-year-old program comes in.
Thomas became aware of the opportunity when a representative of the company expressed interest in making a donation to a Mississippi school. Thomas said there is no guarantee the hospital management company will make a donation to the Picayune School District next year, but even if it doesn’t she plans to find the funding to keep the extra class going.
Currently, there are two 4-year-old classes, both held at the South Side Elementary campus. Each class provides care and instruction to 20 students. The additional class will open spots for 20 more children, and provide jobs for an additional teacher and assistant teacher.
The 4-year-old program also receives funding from the Mississippi Department of Education, Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation and private donors, so Thomas feels certain she can secure the additional funding needed to keep the extra class going. Two years in a row she said the 4-year-old program received private donations totaling $40,000, which was used for professional development and training.
Participants of the 4-year-old program are essentially chosen by a lottery, typically comprised of children already in the Early Head Start program to ensure a seamless transition into kindergarten, Thomas said. She said there are currently 45 children in the 3-year-old program. By maintaining a seamless transition in each child’s education, the progress of each child can be tracked.
As a side note, the Early Head Start program in the Picayune School District started 13 years ago, which means the first group of Early Head Start students to graduate high school will do so in May of this year, Thomas said.