YCCF focuses on improving children’s ability to succeed academically and reducing stresses that prevent them from coming to school each day ready to learn. Teaching children so they are well-prepared for life and work is the key to their future and the future of our community. But what about making sure young children are prepared to learn when they start school and ensuring a smooth transition?
Enter the First 10 project. It brings together the School District of the City of York (SDCY), early childhood programs, and health and social service agencies to ensure that all children learn and thrive. This national program emphasizes an engaging and challenging learning environment with community-based providers and early elementary staff. The First 10 partnership provides a clear framework to address all areas of development for the youngest and most vulnerable learners and challenges the way community-based providers and early elementary staff think about learning environments. Through First 10, SDCY is joining forces with York City community organizations to improve outcomes for children ages birth through 10 and their families.
A grant from the Doris E. Schwartz Education Fund at YCCF helped SDYC begin the planning phase with First 10 leader David Jacobson, a nationally recognized expert and innovator in education reform. Just as plans were getting underway, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing the school district and David to take a different approach.
“David was able to bring calm assurance to the new challenges we faced during the planning process,” said Dr. Jill Koser, Assistant Superintendent – Special Education of SDCY. “He helped us navigate what was working and what wasn’t for other school districts and national systems.”
“The school district has been engaged in mitigating learning loss for several years,” said David. “Jill and her team have used what they learned during that process to think creatively about how the First 10 program could benefit children who are impacted by the learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In November, the first play and learn groups will start their pilot with families already working with the school district. To adapt to the new world, the play and learn groups will be held virtually and be recorded so that families can access them when it’s convenient for them. The same goes for the professional development opportunities the program offers for Pre-K and kindergarten teachers.
Moving to virtual groups provides its own challenges as well. “Some of the families don’t have a phone or tablet, or reliable internet access,” Jill pointed out. “Many of our parents use their phones for internet access and are often worried about going over their data limit. We’re responding to that by exploring loaner programs and lower-bandwidth recordings of the groups.”
It’s worth noting that First 10 complements another YCCF supported program – Communities in Schools (CIS). They are partnering together at Ferguson K-8 School. CIS is providing the connections to families and engaging and supporting families with children to provide school-wide services, targeted programs, and individualized support. First 10 pushes the CIS model down to include children 0-5 and adds a focus on academic preparedness.
“With the combination of CIS and First 10, we’re able to provide a full continuum of services for our families, including the children who are still at home,” said Jill. “Think of how that impacts a family and a child to have a full range of services at their fingertips. Building those relationships between the family and the school district before their children even enter school is more important than ever.”