Leon County Schools launches new initiative

Published: Sep. 26, 2019 at 11:51 PM EDT
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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

September 26, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Leon County Schools has launched a new initiative aimed at getting young children ready for kindergarten.

LCS announced 'Forward Leon' on Thursday.

A district representative said there is a concerning percentage of children in the county who do not meet standardized readiness levels. This could put them behind inside the classroom and potentially lead to bigger issues later in life, the representative said.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna and his staff are touring the county and hosting a series of meet-and-greets to establish a relationship with Pre-K providers. Hanna said the district will focus on getting kids into quality pre-kindergarten programs.

"This is the first step," Hanna told WCTV reporter Katie Kaplan. "The first step is to open lines of communication. We have never done this before."

'Forward Leon' includes a district partnership with more than 160 private early-childhood providers, like daycare centers and preschools, to make sure children are ready for school.

"It's a lot of work and it gets challenging at times, but God put me here to serve for our kids," said Cheryl White-Johnson.

White-Johnson has run Horizons Unlimited Preschool for 32 years. She attended the Thursday night meeting to learn more about how she can help to bridge the gap.

Hanna hopes to cultivate the relationship with pre-k providers to streamline early learning techniques, offer training opportunities and share materials like curriculum, books and even furniture.

"I'm excited and so blessed," said White-Johnson. "I'm really excited. I want to put my time in."

State testing showed 44% of kindergarten students do not meet the readiness standard, said LCS Director of Early Childhood Programs Brooke Brunner.

"The state of Florida scored 52% of kindergartners ready and Leon County scored 56% of kindergartners ready," she said.

Brunner said the data was based off of the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener (FLKRS), a test that is administered in first 30 days of kindergarten and which asses basic comprehension, phonics and math.

"We know that 95% percent of a child's brain is developed between the ages of zero to five," said Hanna. "If a kid in kindergarten is so far behind, by third grade we can't get them caught up. The kids who are not at grade level by third grade are more likely to drop out of school and turn to the streets, unfortunately."

The district said before children reach kindergarten, they should be able to recognize basic letters (lower case and capitalized) and should be able to recognize their name. Brunner recommends parents also help ease the transition by letting kids get familiarized with their school campus and get to know their principal before the school year starts.

Upcoming Childcare Provider Meetings:

  • Oct. 1: Eastside Branch Library (6:30 p.m.)
  • Oct. 2: Lake Jackson Community Center (6:30 p.m.)