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Early Learning Collaborative funding to bring 4 more preschool options to Oxford

Oxford School District was one of five schools to have an application approved by the Mississippi State Board of Education to join the Early Learning Collaborative program on Thursday.

The ELC will provide OSD with $683,700 per year starting in January 2019, and those funds will help the district start four new preschool options in Oxford: two in Mary Cathey Head Start Center and two at Willie Price Lab School.

Specifically, the funds will also be used to hire four new teachers and four teacher assistants.

The total amount OSD would receive from January 2019 to June 2021 totals just over $2.51 million.

The funding that OSD would receive from this grant would directly help establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services in the community.

Tamara Hillmer, Director of Early Childhood Development for OSD, was present at the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors meeting last Monday and spoke to the necessity of the program.

Hillmer presented a figure that represented the total community kindergarten readiness rate to the supervisors, which included the surrounding public, private and centers for kindergarten.

“The school readiness rate was 45 percent, which is not that great,” Hillmer said. “Hence the reason why we applied for the Early Learning Collaborative grant.”

Hillmer who transitioned from Oxford Elementary’s Principal to the Director of Early Childhood Development in May of 2018, took the lead with overseeing OSD’s proposal, which began with the SBE asking for applications on July 26, 2018.

“By giving preschool students a strong start, they will be better prepared for kindergarten,” Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, said in a statement. “I congratulate these communities on partnering to take the first step in supporting their students’ academic success throughout their education.”

Along with OSD, the Cleveland School, George County School, Hattiesburg Public School and Marion County School Districts were approved to be a part of the ELC program.