Large cardboard boxes sat scattered across the front lawn of the Brownstown Christian Church preschool and day care center Wednesday morning.
The boxes contained supplies and school equipment recently delivered to the West Walnut Street school as part of the effort to help it earn the Paths to QUALITY Level 3 designation. That designation will allow the school, in turn, to accept state-funded vouchers from low-income families who qualify through the On My Way Pre-K program.
Volunteers with the church and school, Cummins Inc. in Seymour and the Jackson County Education Coalition helped assemble and put away the chairs, bookshelves and learning tools, which were purchased with a $16,000 state grant.
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“All of these items are basically to get our classrooms up to the level of quality for our kids who are attending here,” said Tina Howell, director of the school program.
In 2014, Jackson County and four other Hoosier counties — Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh — were selected to take part in the On My Way Pre-K program, which is an effort to give more 4-year-olds access to quality, early-childhood education.
Paths to QUALITY is the state’s voluntary rating and improvement program through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. A Level 3 out of the four levels means the school will implement or already has a curriculum that supports children’s learning and school readiness.
Qualified families through On My Way Pre-K can receive vouchers and choose from any of the approved programs available in the area.
Those include community and faith-based programs and public or charter schools that have to be rated at Level 3 or Level 4. In Jackson County, there are six Level 3 rated programs at this time — Above and Beyond Child Care, Head Start, Terri’s Playhouse and Zion Lutheran School, all in Seymour; Crothersville Elementary School; and God’s Little Blessings in Brownstown.
Other pending providers besides Brownstown Christian Church include Medora Elementary School, Lord’s Lambs Preschool, Girls Inc./Child Care Network and Margaret R. Brown Elementary/Child Care Network.
The deadline for families to participate was April 30, and at that time, 91 children were registered to participate in Jackson County, according to Jackson County Education Coalition Executive Director Dan Hodge.
Hodge said the $16,000 grant also is tied to the On My Way Pre-K program, which offers funds to equip schools so they can become Level 3 qualified and thus enter into On My Way Pre-K.
“In the end, it gives some of these soon-to-be providers additional things, which ultimately gives them a better preschool experience to offer to the kids of Jackson County,” he said.
Howell said that, in addition to the upgrades, the school itself is in the midst of some positive restructuring. A new curriculum will begin this year, and she said the staff is striving to provide a cohesive program across the board for the kids to grow into.
“We are starting in the nursery room, teaching the kids, and it builds every year as they move up to the preschool to prepare them for school,” she said.
But the school will continue to provide a ministry and teach the kids about Christ.
“Our big push with the kids is for them to learn through the fruits of the spirit on how we love one another and also serve,” she said.
Overall, becoming Level 3 is what Howell said is the first step toward creating a better environment for the future preschoolers.
“We are not just a baby-sitting program,” she said. “We are bringing these kids in and preparing them for the future.”
For information on the On My Way Pre-K program, call 812-519-2923, ext. 304.