Education, The Holistic Way

September 18, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

While children may not start school until kindergarten, they start learning much earlier.

So the Carroll County school system continues to extend its reach to preschoolers and parents, taking a holistic approach to family learning, officials say.

"The teachers are seeing more and more youngsters coming to school not ready to learn," said Superintendent Brian Lockard.

If schools spend more money now on preschoolers, that will prevent those children from falling behind later in the primary grades, and even give them a "chance to excel, not just to 'not fail,' " Dr. Lockard said.

And when state and federal money for these programs disappears, the county Board of Education is picking up the slack.

The system needs to look at spending a little more on preschool education to reduce its reliance on shrinking Chapter 1 money for elementary grades, said Patricia Amass, who supervises state and federal grant programs for Carroll schools. Federal Chapter 1 funding is provided for schools that have a certain percentage of disadvantaged youngsters.

The school board is finding the money in other areas.

* When federal money dried up for the Even Start program that focuses on family literacy, helping parents to get adult basic education while also improving the learning of children, the county board voted in August to pay for it anyway.

* Piney Ridge Elementary School got a $10,980 grant this year from USF&G Foundation's Employee Giving Council to support family literacy, summer programs preparing children for school and training for teachers.

* Charles Carroll, Runnymede, Elmer Wolfe and Taneytown elementary schools are sharing two grants of $41,000 each from the Maryland Department of Human Resources to help prepare children for kindergarten and first grade.

"I really feel it's important they learn at an early age," said Leslie Westervelt, a Westminster mother of four who has seen the two of her children who were in Head Start flourish.

"At age 3 or 4, they are so into learning," Ms. Westervelt said.

Her youngest child, Adam, 5, is now a kindergartner at Robert Moton Elementary School. He is excelling, she believes, because of the Head Start program he was in last year.

"My older daughter had no Head Start, no formal teaching before kindergarten, and she is still lagging behind, and she's in third grade," Ms. Westervelt said.

The state ran out of federal Even Start money and was unable to renew the $180,000 grant that Carroll schools had for the past four years. But Carroll school officials found $132,321 to keep the program going.

Because the program is no longer federally funded, its name has been changed to Families Learning Together. Officials expect to serve 60 families this year, 23 of whom are continuing from last year.

Director of Finance Walter Brilhart said the board worked out a way to pay for the program by using a rebate the schools got for benefits not used by employees, and bequest money the state funnels to schools.

In addition to helping the children, Even Start and Families Learning Together help parents get adult basic education and work toward getting their high school diplomas.

"We deal with the whole family," said Patricia Snowberger, who coordinates the program in Carroll County. "The parent and the children must come together."

Two teachers also visit families at home, bringing with them developmental exercises, counting games and musical activities. Parents learn ways to continue helping their children learn, Ms. Snowberger said.

"There may be several children in a family, and so we're helping mom get a diploma and working with a child who brought materials home and didn't understand how to do it. The teacher would help the parent work through materials with the child."

Although the Carroll system lost the Even Start money, it still has the two preschool programs, federal Head Start and its state-funded twin, Extended Elementary Education Program, called EEEP.

The Head Start grant is $435,781, to serve 88 4-year-olds in preschool classes at area elementary schools, and another 16 3-year-olds through home visits. Families qualify by having a low income.

The state EEEP provides $148,000 to serve 100 children in preschool classes.

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