SYLVA, NC – The preschool program in Jackson County Public Schools received another boost this week with the approval of a $142,578 grant from Dogwood Health Trustto add a second PreK classroom at Smokey Mountain Elementary School in Whittier.
“I am very excited that we can continue to provide high-quality early learning opportunities for Jackson County’syoungest students,” Executive Director of Elementary Education Laura Dills said.
The grant will cover start-up costs including furniture, curriculum, supplies and a portion of the salaries for a teacher and teacher assistant. The district is responsible for engaging community partners to help sustain the program in future years.
“This grant allows even more of our ‘littles’ to experience high-quality early learning in a structured, literacy-rich environment,” Superintendent Dr. Dana Ayers said.
Expansion of the preschool program and a greater emphasis on early childhood literacy have been ongoing goals for Ayers since she became superintendent in 2021. The new PreK classroom at SMES will bring the district’s total number to eight, up from only three last year.
“I am delighted that JCPS is setting the pace for providing preschool opportunities,” Ayers said. “Dogwood Health Trust shares our desire to offer early learning to Jackson County families, and we are fortunate to have them partner with us through grant funding.”
Based in Asheville, Dogwood Health Trust seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals in Western North Carolina’s 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary.
In 2021, they committed $236,000 for new PreK classrooms at Cullowhee Valley and Scotts Creek School. In March 2022, they provided $130,000 to be matched by county commissioners for construction of accessible playgrounds at Cullowhee Valley, Fairview and Smoky Mountain High School.
The new PreK classroom at Smokey Mountain Elementary School will open in August 2023. Applications for all of the district’s preschool locations for the 2023-24 school yearwill be available in March 2023. Families can contact the district office at (828) 586-2311 for more information.