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West Elementary receives grants

West Elementary School has received two different grants from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Development that will benefit both Pre-K and kindergarten classes. 

WES Principal Deanna Hollimon said she recently received word that one of the grant packages WES is receiving will allow for two additional Pre-K classrooms, which will bring the total number of Pre-K classrooms to five. 

Hollimon said all five of these classrooms will be in the Russellville City Schools Early Childhood Center, located in the former Mars Hill Preschool building that RCS purchased in February. 

“Renovations to the building are starting soon to make sure each classroom meets the specific standards laid out in the grants,” Hollimon. “Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is No. 1 in the nation for a reason. They have very high standards for the curriculum, teachers and learning environments, and we are excited to be expanding our Pre-K program by two more classes this coming school year and meeting all these standards.” 

Hollimon said moving the Pre-K classrooms to the new RCS Early Childhood Center will free up more space in the kindergarten hallway, where WES will have 11 total kindergarten classrooms this year – which is where a second grant package comes in. 

Hollimon said WES also received a 2020-2021 KELLOGG Pre-K-3rd Grade Integrated Approach To Early Learning Grant from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Learning in the amount of $110,000. This grant allows all 11 kindergarten teachers at WES to receive $10,000 for implementing developmentally appropriate kindergarten strategies in their classrooms, which will deal heavily with social and emotional learning as well as oral language development. 

“Our Pre-K classrooms that follow the Alabama’s First Class Pre-K curriculum are already implementing this type of learning, where there’s a heavy focus on social and emotional learning and purposeful play,” Hollimon said. “There have been studies to show this approach to learning for (Pre-K and kindergarten) is much more beneficial. It sort of gets us back to what kindergarten used to be – more playtime with more ways to turn play into learning opportunities.

“It’s getting us back to true early childhood education, and that’s something I’m very excited about.”

Hollimon said since this type of curriculum is already being used in Pre-K, it will be great to have it translate over to the kindergarten classes. 

“It’s going to give our youngest students, especially the ones involved in our Pre-K program first, a solid foundation to build on later on in school,” she said. 

Hollimon said a bulk of the grant money allotted to each kindergarten teacher will go toward the purchase of new resources to support this curriculum. The money is also being used for professional development for the teachers and for Hollimon. 

“We’ve already been learning a lot on topics that will be so useful once school resumes in the fall,” Hollimon said. “There will be a focus on helping our young students learn to deal with their emotions in the proper way and to handle problems with conscious discipline. We’ll be purchasing items that lead to purposeful play, which strengthens their imagination and their social skills.

“It’s just very exciting to know this is going to be available to our students.”