CASHIERS, NC – Early childhood education in Jackson County Public Schools will soon take a big step forward thanks to a $115,240 grant from the Blue Ridge School Education Foundation. The funding will cover the startup costs for an additional preschool classroom at Blue Ridge School in Cashiers.
“We have long recognized the importance of early childhood education,” BRSEF President Carl Hyde said. “We are pleased to exclusively fund the JCPS request for the initial funding of a second PreK classroom at Blue Ridge School for next school year.”
Preschool programs and early childhood literacy are top priorities for Superintendent Dr. Dana Ayers and Elementary Education Director Laura Dills.
“Dr. Ayers and I have been discussing the potential to expand our PreK programs, and now we have this unique opportunity to serve even more students at Blue Ridge,” Dills said.
The district announced in December that it will add new preschool classrooms at Cullowhee Valley and Scotts Creek School for the 2022-23 school year. Those two schools plus the addition at Blue Ridge will double the district’s preschool classrooms from three to six.
However, Blue Ridge is unique because it will be the only school in the district to offer a classroom specifically for three-year-olds.
“It’s a pilot program because it’s our first in Jackson County Public Schools where we’re intentionally seeking out three-year-olds,” Dills said. “The idea is for students to get two years of structured preschool experience before they enter Kindergarten because the sooner you can close learning gaps, the more likely it is that they will be proficient throughout their academic years.”
Blue Ridge School and Blue Ridge Early College provide a rare and special opportunity for students to spend their entire educational career on the same campus.
“It’s such a tight-knit community, we would love to be able to take students from a three-year-old program all the way through their senior year to graduation,” Dills said. “We really feel like we can build a lot of capacity for those students to be successful.”
After the 2022-23 school year, the new classroom will be sustained primarily by federal Title I funds, but Dills stressed the importance of the BRSEF grant to pay for the startup costs.
“If the Blue Ridge School Education Foundation had not helped, it would be years before we could save enough money and make a financial plan to do it,” Dills said. “We’re so grateful for them to consider this. We couldn’t do the project without them.”
The Blue Ridge School Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 to support innovative programs and fill financial gaps at Blue Ridge School and Blue Ridge Early College. More information about the foundation is available at www.cashiers-nc.org/brsf