(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools (DCPS) Acting Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee cut the ribbon on a new child development center at Ketcham Elementary School in Ward 8. Ketcham is the third DCPS elementary school to offer a high quality early education program for infants and toddlers. The new center, a partnership between DCPS and the United Planning Organization (UPO), will create a streamlined early learning pathway, allowing more than 30 children ages 0-3 the opportunity to be a part of the Ketcham community and is part of Mayor Bowser’s commitment to create approximately 1,000 new infant and toddler childcare seats to meet the needs of families in Washington, DC.
“Since we know that the achievement gap can start before students even reach preschool, we also know how important it is to expand access to high-quality infant and toddler care,” said Mayor Bowser. “The teachers, staff, and leadership at Ketcham are committed to the Ward 8 community, and now by joining forces with UPO, they will be able to develop even stronger relationships with students and families and set more young people up for success.”
Through the partnership with UPO, staff at Ketcham will be able to develop long-term relationships with families from birth to fifth grade. UPO staff will provide families with support services, including home visits and parent conferences. DCPS and UPO teachers will also have opportunities to collaborate, engaging in professional development together and working together as students transition from child care into pre-K. UPO currently operates child development centers at C.W. Harris Elementary School and Marie Reed Elementary School. Both centers enroll children and families from the school community and accept subsidy vouchers for child care.
“Providing high-quality infant and toddler care at Ketcham Elementary School is aligned with the District’s commitment to both equity and excellence,” said Acting Chancellor Ferebee. “This partnership will allow us to build relationships with students and families earlier and ensure that the youngest members of the DCPS community have the opportunities and support they need to thrive.”
Ketcham Elementary School has been recognized as both a Bold Improvement and Bold Performance School for their efforts to close the achievement gap. Principal Maisha Riddlesprigger will be honored next week at Standing Ovation for DC Public Schools as Principal of the Year and helped spearhead this effort to provide child care at Ketcham.
“Our motto at Ketcham Elementary School is, ‘Our students. Our future. Our responsibility.’ It’s our promise to the families that we serve and a daily reminder of how we view our work in the community,” said Ketcham Principal Maisha Riddlesprigger. “A part of that commitment is welcoming students and families into our community from birth and providing them with support every step of the way. I’m excited that one of our Ketcham parents has been hired to join the staff of the child development center, showing how we can use our schools to invest in our communities.”
At the ribbon cutting, the Mayor and State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang also announced that the District is receiving a $10.6 million Preschool Development Birth to Five Grant (PDG). The funding will be used to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services and to build systems that equip families with clear and consistent information. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), in partnership with the State Early Childhood Development Coordinating Council (SECDCC), will use some of the funding to conduct a statewide needs assessment of its birth to five programs. Based on the results of the needs assessment, OSSE will create a strategic plan aimed at improving outcomes for the District’s most vulnerable children and their families. The funding will also be used to equip more parents and families with consistent information on existing services, expand mental health services, and improve the quality of early childhood programs through the purchase of research-based materials for facilities and schools.
Over the past two years, the Bowser Administration has launched two initiatives to improve access to information for families – My Child Care DC and Thrive by Five. With this funding, OSSE will be able to build on this progress by developing an early childhood integrated data system (ECIDS) to support data-driven decision making, improve outreach, and ultimately make it easier for families to enroll in programs designed to support their child’s development.
“This grant will allow DC to better serve our children and families – especially our most vulnerable populations – by creating a more equitable, responsive and coordinated early childhood system,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “We will be able to maximize our current investments, increase access to quality care, and improve coordination and transitions between child care, Head Start, pre-K and Kindergarten.”
Leaders from OSSE, DC Health, Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), Department of Human Services (DHS), Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), the District’s child welfare agency and the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) and the PDG evaluation team will meet regularly to review progress, discuss challenges, and identify strategies for improving the quality of early learning environments, strengthening partnership and communication with parents, and improving the diversity and equity of outcomes in programs and services.
“As a single parent raising a 2-year-old in the District of Columbia, I am thrilled about this new grant opportunity. Having information and resources more easily accessible and coordinated will definitely improve my stability and help me access the supports my son needs for his health and development,” said Nacole Thrower, chairperson of the Quality Improvement Network Policy Council. “Improving the quality of early care and education and enhancing coordination of eligibility processes for child care, Head Start, Medicaid, TANF, home visiting, housing and other programs will reduce stress on families and ensure they are connected to the many District services and resources available to support their children’s care and education.”
DC Health will co-chair the Steering Committee of the PDG B-5 grant with OSSE. The $10.6 million grant is one of the largest amounts awarded to any state. In addition, the District’s PDG-B-5 application also included more than $3 million in private sector matching funds from the Bainum Family Foundation.
“We are pleased to partner with OSSE on many efforts to improve systems and resources for young children and their families, and the Preschool Development Grant B-5 will help us continue the momentum in the District,” says Barbara Bainum, Chair of the Board, CEO and President of the Bainum Family Foundation. “We want all children in the District to thrive. If we give children what they need from the very beginning of their lives, they will have a better chance of success in school and in life.”
Over the last four years, the Bowser Administration has made critical progress in supporting the District’s youngest learners. Mayor Bowser’s FY19 budget includes $12.5 million toward making early child care more affordable for all District residents which includes a refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per child for families enrolled in any licensed DC child care facility and not receiving a child care subsidy.