Local News

July 5, 2014

Boon for Whitfield County pre-K

The scope of a more than $2 million literacy grant awarded to the Whitfield County school district earlier this year has been expanded to support the region’s youngest learners.

Pre-kindergarten teachers and students in the district will receive the benefit of $295,000 to support improved literacy resources and instruction, as approved by the State Board of Education last month.

The district was one of just nine in Georgia to earn “Birth-To-Five” monies (Charlton, Clarke, Colquitt, Crisp, Fulton, Glynn, Thomaston-Upson and Wilkes), which will be tacked on to a $2.5 million Striving Readers Grant awarded to Whitfield County Schools in February.

The “Birth-To-Five” portion of the grant is intended to promote reading and support literacy among children when, according to research, they need it most, said Merry Boggs, curriculum director for Whitfield County Schools.

“If we can get (children reading) early, before the age of 5, and can help educate parents about how important it is to read to kids before school, then we can have students all starting out where they need to,” Boggs said. “It is exciting for us to get this grant. The pre-K teachers are very excited. We’ve all worked so hard together, and now we can do some additional things that we know will really make a difference.”

The additional portion of the grant will be paid out over five years and split between pre-kindergarten programs at Antioch Elementary, Beaverdale Elementary, Cedar Ridge Elementary, Cohutta Elementary, Dawnville Elementary, Dug Gap Elementary, Eastside Elementary, Valley Point Elementary and the Career Academy.

According to Boggs, the funds will allow the purchase of updated curriculums for all schools, support summer reading programs and pay for professional development training for approximately 22 pre-K teachers during the next five years.

“Research shows that continuous professional development makes a real difference for kids. Allowing our teachers to become better trained can transform our programs and what we do for our kids,” she said.

The grant will also allow community partners — Boggs authored the grant proposal with support from the Dalton-Whitfield Archway Partnership and Readers to Leaders Dalton-Whitfield — to purchase books for giveaways to children.

“We’ve learned that when you include the families in learning, and you get books in homes, it helps kids become ready for school,” Boggs said. “There is a significant difference when families are included in teaching their kids literacy. Now, we can fund those types of materials for the home.”

In total, the state of Georgia, through the United States Department of Education, has awarded more than $20 million for Striving Readers Grants during the next five years.

Approximately $3 million will support pre-kindergarten programs.

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