When the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meets Tuesday night, it is expected to commit to an expansion of the early childhood program which will cost an estimated $9 to $14 million.
The commitment is coming at a time when the district reserve level is dangerously low and expected to bottom out at eight percent, according to the strategic plan which the board approved last year.
According to the fiscal note provided in the Board of Education documentation, prepared by Director of Special Services Lisa Orem and signed off on by Superintendent C. J. Huff, the funding will come through "a combination of local, state, federal, FEMA 404 safe room, funding, Community Development Block Grant funding, and foundation grants."
The report says "the estimated cost of the facility is between $9.5 and $14.5 million depending upon capacity and available funds."
But, of course, it might cost more.
"The district may have some upfront, one-time expenditures for bricks and mortar. For example, the district required 25 percent match for the 404 safe room."
The expansion of the program is justified by Ms. Orem and Huff at the beginning of the report:
"Since the May 22 tornado, the need for quality early childhood programs has grown exponentially. According to Child Care Aware, the City of Joplin had 67 licensed daycares in the community. Today there are only 30. Quality childcare programs are an essential infrastructure component for the redevelopment of our community. Young families cannot move to a community where affordable early childhood programming is not available.
"It is well documented that early intervention programs during those critical early years is essential to children entering kindergarten ready to learn. Sadly, in Joplin, over 50 percent of children entering kindergarten lack the necessary skills to be successful in school. This creates a significant skill gap between children ready to learn and those who are not. Early intervention is essential to remediating this issue long term. Additionally, the research clearly indicates a profound lifelong impact on children who attend high quality pre-schools vs. children who do not. Therefore, the need is great for the Joplin Schools to pool available resources to support early childhood education."
The Board of Education will be asked to pass a resolution committing the district to the expansion.
(My apologies: The original headline for this post noted half a million dollars in technology additions. I decided to write about that in a later post, but I neglected to change the headline.)