Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune Jalea Pinkston reads a book about Eastwood Elementary School in preparation for the first day of school on Aug. 26.
A child’s education starts the day they’re born.
The staff at Oberlin Kids and the Oberlin Early Childhood Center, 317 East College St., are focusing on helping each child grow and develop from a toddler to an elementary student.
OECC director Jennifer Harris said it’s critical for a child to build on their skills from the time they’re an infant learning to walk to a toddler learning to share.
“It’s harder to create that foundation when it’s six months before kindergarten,” she said.
OECC has developed from a child care program in 1965 to an early learning center that prepares kids for kindergarten.
Last year, Oberlin Kids worked with the Oberlin City Schools to help ease students’ transition into kindergarten by creating a book that highlights the teachers and staff members they’ll meet at Eastwood Elementary School. Youngsters also visited the elementary school during the year.
Jenn Keathley, Oberlin Kids “on track for kindergarten” coordinator, said the children loved the books and seeing who their teachers might be. She plans to expand on that transition program this year.
“We estimate about 40 percent of the kids in Oberlin are not in a formal, high-quality place of learning,” Harris said. Those formal places would include OECC, a licensed health care provider, or a public preschool.
She believes those kids are at home, at a friend’s house, or at an unlicensed care provider.
Keathley, Harris, and Eastwood principal Susan Alig are working to find those students not enrolled in preschool or kindergarten.
“We also know that one year of a formal, high-quality preschool experience makes a huge difference in a toddler’s formal education,” Harris said. One year of preschool helps lower a student’s drop-out rates, attendance rates, and test scores.
One area OECC is looking to enhance this fall is its curriculum.
The center has hired a curriculum consultant to help deliver a higher level of education and work with teachers to improve classroom offerings.
Keathley focuses on helping parents prepare their child for school and get any additional help from a doctor or other organizations.
She held 134 “snapshot screenings” with parents last year and made 48 referrals to a preschool program, pediatrician, Oberlin Community Services, and helped children get physicals or even visit an optometrist.
The center plans to offer playgroups this fall during the day and have parent cafes monthly starting in September.
The cafes will allow parents to meet and talk with each other about issues or challenges they are having with their children and learn how other people have dealt with similar problems.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.