By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday that the Kansas City school district and two nonprofits will receive nearly $1.5 million to build and renovate two preschool facilities as the state’s first recipients of new early childhood grants.
Nixon made the announcement at Woodland Early Learning Community School, which is receiving $480,000 for renovations it undertook after applying for the money this spring. The Kansas City district and the nonprofit Kansas City Freedom Schools Initiative operate the newly reopened school, which will serve 280 students by year’s end.
A second nonprofit, the Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center, will receive a $1 million grant to help build a $4.2 million, 28,000-square-foot early childhood education facility.
Nixon, who has made kindergarten readiness a focus, said the grants are part of $10 million in community development block grants and tax credits that are being awarded through the new Missouri Smart Start initiative. The grants are competitive, and Nixon said other winners would be announced soon.
“By making sure our kids enter kindergarten ready to learn we prevent much more difficult and expensive academic problems down the road and we improve their prospects of succeeding in school and prospering in the career of their choice,” said Nixon, who also sought more money for Head Start and another preschool effort.
Nixon’s announcement came just two days after a district commission proposed year-round pre-kindergarten for all students.
Jerry Kitzi, director of Head Start for the Kansas City district, said about 40 percent of incoming district kindergartners haven’t attended a formal early childhood program. The district has plans to open two other early childhood facilities besides Woodland and is looking for funding to serve more students, Kitzi said.
“We can remediate and we do a good job taking students who are three and four years behind and catching them up over their 12 years with us,” Kansas City Superintendent R. Stephen Green said. “But the real vision moving forward is: How do you spin out of that cycle so we are supporting readiness?”