The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and United Way of Hancock County are joining forces to ensure that more children have access to pre-kindergarten in Hancock County.
In November 2014, United Way board members approved a grant to be awarded in January 2015 to serve children from low-income families in the Findlay City Schools. The funding allowed for two additional pre-kindergarten classes of 16 children.
In May 2015, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation awarded the Hancock County Educational Service Center and Findlay City Schools a one-year grant each to further expand the pre-kindergarten pilot project for children from low-income families. United Way of Hancock County matched the funding for the expansion.
The Hancock County Educational Service Center will create a new pre-kindergarten classroom at Riverdale (serving up to 16 students) and offer 20 pre-kindergarten scholarships to students throughout the rest of the county. The need is greatest in the Riverdale Local School District and currently, the other county pre-kindergarten programs are not functioning at full capacity. The intent is to provide equal opportunities to all families for their children to participate in a quality preschool program. These scholarships allow low-income families to send their children to preschool without any cost to the family.
Findlay City Schools will create another pre-kindergarten classroom (one morning class and one afternoon class) serving up to 28 students at Washington Preschool. This will be in addition to the pre-kindergarten classroom started through United Way funding in January 2015.
The grants cover tuition, transportation and lunch to the pre-kindergarten students.
The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation provided grants totaling $179,000 that were awarded as follows; $35,016 to the Hancock County Educational Service Center and $143,984 to Findlay City Schools.
United Way of Hancock County provided grants totaling $159,000 that were awarded as follows: $35,016 to the Hancock County Educational Service Center; and $123,984 to Findlay City Schools.
"We have been researching the best way to spend the funds we placed in reserves to address emerging needs in the community," said John Urbanski, president & chief executive officer of United Way. "It became clear that there are a number of children who need access to pre-kindergarten schooling in order to be ready to learn. This pilot program will not only address the children's needs, but will also allow us to gather evidence to support early learning as a way to address our community's workforce issues of the future."
Locally, school administrators report the need to increase the number of kindergartners entering school ready to learn. To determine readiness, schools currently use the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) which assesses social skills (including social and emotional development and approaches towards learning), mathematics, science, social studies, language/literacy and physical well-being/motor development.
In a few short months, the United Way funded program is already showing results. Pre-kindergarten teachers are already seeing improvements in kindergarten readiness skills including dramatic increases in language skills, math skills and socialization. The pilot pre-kindergarten class began in January with five students only naming 0-5 pictures in one minute. By April, seventeen students could name 21+ pictures. The typical peer class (not economically disadvantaged) began with zero children naming 0-5 pictures and four students in the 11-20 picture range. Twenty-eight out of thirty students named 21+ pictures in April. The data clearly indicates that students that are not economically disadvantaged enter school with a more extensive vocabulary. However, students in the pilot class showed significant growth in less than a four month time frame. The pilot class also showed impressive gains in their math concepts. Eleven of twenty-one students mastered 16-20 items on the math assessment in April, which is an improvement from four students in January. Similar to the language assessment, the typical peer group entered pre-kindergarten with a greater knowledge of math concepts.
"It has become clear that expanding quality pre-kindergarten opportunities to include more of the economically disadvantaged population will be a significant investment in the future of Hancock County. These grants seek to expand the pilot started in January so that more students are served in both the city and the county and so that schools are able to evaluate a full year of pre-kindergarten for this population," said Katherine Kreuchauf, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation president.
"This is an exciting partnership between United Way of Hancock County and the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and is directly tied to strategies of the Hancock County Workforce Coalition. We are all working towards having a prepared, expanding workforce allowing growth now and in the future to fulfill our economic potential," said Kreuchauf.
According to United Way board member Tim Mayle, assistant economic director of the Findlay Hancock County Alliance, "the number one challenge for our employers today is attracting and retaining a qualified workforce. This investment in children's education will result in a stronger community and workforce. Our workforce coalition has identified early childhood education as an opportunity to expand the workforce for now and into the future to fulfill our economic potential."
Families can enroll their pre-kindergarten children throughout the school year if there are openings in their home school district.
For more information on this partnership between the United Way of Hancock County and the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, contact:
John Urbanski, President & CEO
United Way of Hancock County
Kimberly Bash, Senior Program Officer
The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation
To learn if your child qualifies for this free pre-kindergarten support, contact:
Findlay City Schools- Washington Preschool
Hancock County Educational Service Center
419-422-7525 ext. 208
About The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation
The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation will improve the quality of life in Hancock County through collaborative leadership, responsible grantmaking, and the development of philanthropic giving. Established in 1992 as an outgrowth of a one-time gift from L. Dale Dorney, the Community Foundation has granted more than $30 million to fund projects that support our community. Visit www.community-foundation.com or call 419-425-1100 to learn more about how the Community Foundation is helping our community.
About United Way of Hancock County
United Way of Hancock County's mission is to measurably improve people's lives in Hancock County. Established in 1955, the organization has raised over $79 million dollars through annual fundraising campaigns, special events and corporate grants and contributions. In 2015, United Way of Hancock County funded 36 programs that help build a better life. The programs all focus on health, education and income. For more information visit http://LiveUnitedHancockCounty.org or call 419-423-1432.