Cradle School receive special grant

A kindergarten-readiness program called Cradle School in the Danville School system has been granted $100,000 to use over the next two years.

Cradle School is usually funded through an annual grant by the United Way and operates on about $20,000 to $25,000 annually said Families First Families Resource and Youth Services Center Coordinator Jenny Clark. “So this is a huge, huge boost,” she said when she made the announcement to the Danville Board of Education Monday afternoon.

A news release from Gov. Andy Beshear’s office stated 150 FRYSC in Kentucky received the $100,000 grant in the second round of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund 2.

“The grants will fund educational support services needed due to COVID-19’s impact on schools, youth and families, with a focus on early childhood education and child care, as well as family crisis and mental health counseling. Local FRYSCs applied for a maximum allocation of $100,000,” according to the release.

The grants will be managed by the Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. More than 850 FRYSCs provide services to Kentucky children, youth and families in approximately 1,200 schools.

Clark explained, “The Cradle School is a free program designed for families with children from prenatal to 5 years and families with preschool-age children who did not qualify for free preschool but also can not go the tuition route.”

“Our kindergarten readiness rate has risen over the past four years but still remains lower than the state average. We are a feeder into kindergarten, and as a free program, we want to reach as many people as possible and empower the whole family while we gain participants,” Clark said.

She added, “Our yearly goal usually involves growing the program, providing families with concrete resources in our community and educating the parent or caregiver on developmentally appropriate activities and behaviors in their children.”

Clark said currently Cradle School, which is housed in First Baptist Church on the Danville Bypass, now has 18 families with 25 children participating. With the new funding they are hoping to grow the program and include 25 families with up to 30 or 40 children. She added, “Growing the program by number of participants is the goal. We have a high rate of neglect and abuse in the Bluegrass.”

Along with home visits from the Cradle School staff, “Our parent educating pieces help reduce the chances for neglect or abuse,” Clark added.

The GEER II funding will allow additional purchases such as more “gross motor manipulatives like soft climbing pieces; educational manipulatives like colorful small sorting objects; home kits for the families (that include paper, crayons, play-doh/clay for strengthening hands and creating; watercolor paper and paints; folder/document holders for the caregivers and notebook and pens for the caregivers); periodicals delivered to us to take to the home and model for literacy engagement and different books for our book share.

They are also planning on hiring of a full-time parent educator with fringe benefits; and purchasing subscriptions to age appropriate magazines such as High Five, Zootles, NatGeo Kids, Parenting, High Five Bilingue and Hello Magazine for participant families. “This is something we have wanted to do for a while but never had the budget for as subscriptions are pricey,” Clark added.

Also, more field trips are planned, Clark said. “We plan on going to more locations during the life of the funding and sharing with families the things that are available to them and how to access them. We are planning a trip to a local pumpkin patch, collaborating with the Boyle County Public Library’s Children’s Coordinator and discussing reading habits the family can get into like describing characters and their emotions and the benefits of developing reading habits in the home like having a nightly story time.”

Clark said bus rental fees will be covered now for their field trips like to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill or other places for parents who do not have transportation would otherwise not get to participate.

The Cradle School staff will “also utilize Bluegrass Community Action and the Family Services Association of Boyle County to showcase their resources like ride assistance and LIHEAP/other utility assistance. We hope to also utilize the Boyle County Extension Office to discuss family health and eating habits and to push use of the Boyle County Farmers’ Market,” Clark said.

She said Cradle School won’t continue to receive Heart of Kentucky United Way Funding during the life of the funding which lasts until late 2023. “We were actually notified of our GEER II award the day before our yearly Letter of Intent was due to HKUW and I notified Stephanie Blevins, the Executive Director of HKUW. We will continue to work together on other things this year and into 2023, applying again for the yearly funds when needed after our GEER II funding is gone.”

Clark added, “We are also hoping to do so much good that other entities look at us to make donations of funding or time volunteering!”

Danville Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald said, “Our FRYSC team provides vital services to our families. During COVID they were invaluable to our students, their families and the community. These additional funds will allow them to provide not only additional services but also a higher level of service.”