RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College are collaborating with the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center and Head Start program to provide a new school service to the public.
The joint effort will benefit students and is planned to be ready by the start of the new school year.
According to Rick Edwards, superintendent of AMESC, the operators of the former Rio Grande Child Development Center on East College Street next to the Rio Grande Village Municipal Building have decided to move on to new opportunities, and with that the facility lies ready for its next project.
The facility will be open from 7 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The new facility will be called Little Storm Early Learning Academy. The institution will be open to all members of the public.
“The facility is owned by the university and has been,” said Dr. Michelle Johnston, president of URG and RGCC. “A private individual ran the (previous) facility. She was one of our alums and wanted to put it here.”
According to Johnston, the facility remained under the same administration for more than a decade and was leased from the college. Students filling needed education degree requirements would work with the facility as well as those seeking nursing degrees. Students will still be offered the opportunity to continue doing so with the new facility.
“It’s just been a neat public and private partnership,” Johnston. “We’re continuing the spirit of that to make sure that in this area there is good child care and early childhood education. It just is like a marriage made in heaven because of where (AMESC) is in what it wants to do for the area and the students. All of these things just make a lot of sense for us to partner in this way.”
The facility aims to open Aug. 22, which is also the first day of university classes. AMESC will be hiring staff with Head Start collaborators. AMESC and the university will be the foremost leadership of the institution.
“We want to be a beacon of education from start to finish in this area,” Johnston said.
According to local Head Start Director Dawn Hall, the benefit to parents is they get traditional day care hours. The benefit to children is they receive comprehensive services, moreso than traditional day care.
“They’ll have access to educational coordinators,” Hall said. “They’ll have access to mental health services. We’ll be doing developmental screenings and assessments with the approved curriculum all the way through infants and into the preschool age. Families have access to a family advocate. It’s much more than ‘please watch my child and keep them safe.’ There will be comprehensive services (throughout) the whole thing.
“When you walk into our classrooms, you won’t be able to tell if it’s one of the professor’s kids or children from one of the poorest parts of the county because those kids are going to be all included in the same classroom and not categorized by income or where they come from. They’ll all receive the same services, which is a great thing in our county.”
For families looking to make use of the programs offered at the Little Storm Early Learning Academy, they should contact the AMESC offices at 740-797-0064 or 740-992-4286. The program will also soon be creating a Facebook page and other social media accounts.
Dean Wright can be reached 740-446-2342, Ext. 2103.