MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced Wednesday the state’s First Class Pre-K program will add 122 new classrooms this fall.

Ivey’s office said the new classrooms will increase the size of Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program for the 2017-2018 school year to 938 classrooms enrolling approximately 16,884 four-year-olds (28 percent of all four-year-olds) statewide.

“A high-quality childhood education program has long lasting benefits on our society as a whole,” Gov. Ivey said. “Investment in our people through education, no matter at what level, is an investment in economic development. I am proud that we are now offering our nationally acclaimed First Class Pre-K program to more Alabama children and families.”

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. ADECE is a part of the executive department of the state government, principally established to enable the governor to effectively and efficiently coordinate early learning programs throughout the state. The department administers the First Class Pre-K program through competitive grants awarded annually. Classrooms are located in public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, and other community-based preschool settings.

“We are very excited that we are able to make the state’s First Class Pre-K program available to more families in the upcoming school year,” said Jeana Ross, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. “I look forward to when Alabama can make the program available to all families that wish to enroll their four-year-olds.”

ADECE received more than 300 grant applications for new classrooms. The Department prioritized grants to communities that indicated the greatest need for additional classrooms. Demand for enrollment continues to exceed the number of classrooms available. Even with the expansion, to-date, more than 3,400 students already pre-registered for next year will not have the opportunity to attend. Students are selected for the limited slots via random drawings at local sites.

Local students will benefit from the extra Pre-K classrooms. Indian Valley Elementary School and B.B. Comer Elementary are two recipients of the grant. You can view the entire list here.

Excelling at the Pre-K level is nothing new for Indian Valley Elementary School. Amy Brooks was named Indian Valley teacher of the year as a Pre-K teacher and went on to place in the top 16 teachers in the state of Alabama. She explained the importance of the Pre-K program.

“It is important to get kids in Pre-K to not only get them academically ready, but to also develop them cognitively. It is important to get that established early on to help them be more successful in kindergarten.”

Brooks also said Pre-K allows students to make an easy transition to kindergarten. “These students get to learn about our school, the staff, and the environment,” she explained. “A lot of these kids have never been to school anywhere, so Pre-K allows them to become better students and make an easier transition.”

Brooks said the additional program will allow 18 students to start their school career early, better preparing them for the years ahead.

“This will be the third year that we have been a part of the Alabama First Class Pre-K program and during those years, we’ve added a class each year,” said Sylacauga City Schools superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman. “I think that speaks to the success of the program so and this obviously allows us to serve more students. There is a high demand for our program so the more classes we can offer, the better. Pre-K is an extremely important part of making sure all of our students get started into their early childhood education years. Kids learn to listen to read and learn numbers and this is a valuable part of their learning process.”

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.