By Andrea Cordle
When students enter kindergarten in the South-Western City Schools District, educators want them to hit the ground running. A new program will help them do just that.
The school district has joined forces with Franklin County and the United Way of Central Ohio for the Franklin County Kids program to improve kindergarten readiness.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, approximately 38 percent of students who enter kindergarten in the district need some type of intervention.
Cindy Sturni, senior director, early childhood initiatives for the United Way, said this program would offer those children free education checkups or assessments. The screenings would help identify the areas in which the child may be behind, like speech or motor skills. Sturni said once the assessment is complete, the organization would refer the parent to a program or social service that could help the child advance.
“We are really excited to be able to come into the South-Western district,” said Sturni. “The intervention can begin before the child goes into school.”
Sturni said Franklin County Kids has been modeled after the successful, county-funded initiative Columbus Kids: Ready, Set, Learn, which offers children in Columbus City Schools kindergarten readiness assistance.
Earlier this month, the Franklin County Commissioners approved funding for the expansion into South-Western. The county will provide nearly $455,000 for the program’s first year. It is expected to serve 2,000 children.
Patrick Callaghan, assistant superintendent of curriculum in the district, said this program is welcome.
Callaghan said there is a high rate of poverty in the district and some parents may not be financially able to provide their child with resources to prepare for kindergarten.
“About 35 to 40 percent of kindergartners have limited skills,” said Callaghan. “Now, we can reach out beyond the school house and close some of those learning gaps before kindergarten.”
The school district has an average of 1,500 students enter kindergarten each year. Callaghan said district administrators expect that number to increase with the implementation of all day, every day kindergarten.
The district is working with the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to build 13 new elementary schools. Several schools are already under construction and scheduled to open next year. The new schools will offer more space for all day, every day kindergarten.
“The students will really benefit from all day learning,” said Callaghan.
Sturni said the United Way has already started performing learning checkups at East Franklin Elementary School last week. She said that at the start of November, they would perform the checkups at the district’s head start program.
For those interested in the free kindergarten readiness assessment, call the United Way of Central Ohio hotline at 241-3089.