Churches join early childhood education push


Rhea Singh makes smoothies with the children during an information session at Dortches Baptist Church.


Staff Writer

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Down East Partnership for Children is using the help of local churches in Nash and Edgecombe counties to help spread the word to local families about the timeline for and what they need to know about registering their children for kindergarten or applying them for pre-K or Head Start programs.

The Down East Partnership for Children recently held informational sessions at Dortches Baptist Church in Nash County and at the Conetoe United Methodist Church in Edgecombe County through a partnership that also included Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, Edgecombe County Public Schools and NEED Inc. 

The Rev. Phillip Barton, pastor of Dortches Baptist Church, said early childhood education is critical in instilling learning in a young child.

“The early formative years for a child in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten will determine their attitude toward school probably for the rest of their years in school,” Barton said. 

Both events had presenters from the Down East Parntership for Children provide information to parents about the 2018-19 preschool application and kindergarten registration process. Viola Barnes-Gray, ready communities coordinator for the Down East Partnership for Children, said the collaboration with the faith-based community is an opportunity to reach out to families with children not in child care or pre-school about pre-K application and kindergarten registration.

“The schools do a great job of actually getting the information out, but we need community-based events to get more information out to those hard-to-reach populations and educate our churches on how they can be an integral part of getting information to families,” Barnes-Gray said.

Registration for kindergarten started this month. Requirements include children being 5 years old on or before Aug.31 and providing a certified birth certificate, two proofs of physical address, an immunization record, a current health assessment, parent or guardian photo identification and proof of guardianship.

Barnes-Gray said kindergarten registration determines funding for teachers. By the end of April, the state will have a certain amount of children that will be allotted for a teacher or teachers based on the amount of children registered, she added.

“We’re trying to help increase the number of families to enroll their child in kindergarten as soon as possible because we want our children to have teachers that will already be welcoming them to the school experience,” she said.

The requirements for pre-school application include children being 4 on or before Aug. 31, meeting all the other requirements for kindergarten and also including the parents’ income verification for one current month.

“We want to make sure children either in that pre-K setting or kindergarten setting are getting their needs met so they will be successful by the end of third grade,” Barnes-Gray. “We want to have healthy, lifelong learners.”