The Alexander City School System is planning to expand its pre-K program to the Alexander City Housing Authority for children who do not have the opportunity to travel to Jim Pearson Elementary School.
The housing authority approached the school system about four months ago with the opportunity, according to Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford.
“A lot of our students who are in those housing authorities can’t get to our pre-K, which exists at Jim Pearson Elementary School,” Lankford said. “So my thought was to take it to the ones who need it the most. That was the beginning of the partnership and we’re still looking at data.”
Lankford said he has spoken with members of the state Office of School Readiness about the idea and the school system is making sure the housing authority has a facility that meets state requirements for teaching.
“The premise behind (this is) we wanted to look at reading for our students and we know that students from poverty have that million-word gap, as a lot of people refer to it as; it starts early on,” Lankford said. “The sooner we can reach those students, the better we are going to be and the better those students are going to be.”
The program expansion is expected to start next year and at least 36 students in the housing authority can participate, according to Lankford.
The school system’s child nutrition program will also deliver meals to the housing authority’s part of the program.
The school system will pay for expanding the program with a grant from the Office of School Readiness and most of the project will be funded from the office, according to Lankford.
If the school system cannot start a pre-K program with the housing authority, Lankford said Stephens Elementary School principal Dr. Mary Holloway offered to take some of her school’s Title I funding to do after-school tutoring for the area.
“I think it would have an immediate impact being able to serve those students, but what I’m looking at is the long-range impact. We know for a fact through research that addressing students’ needs at an earlier age increases their chance of success later in life,” Lankford said. “So we’re hoping it would give more students opportunities, increase the number of graduates as well as the level of our graduates to go out and be productive citizens for Alexander City.