NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT - Springfield, Missouri By Jackie Rehwald Springfield News-Leader

on Thursday, October 06, 2016 Posted in Stories, Happenings, School Partnership Network

James River Church has partnered with First Baptist Church in downtown Springfield to start a free preschool program for low-income families. According to preschool administrator Connie Joy, this is a pilot program for James River Church.

"We will work out the kinks, see what is working and what is not working and build from there," she said. "We want more. We want to partner with more churches and open up more programs across Springfield on the north end. Once the word gets out, there are so many families this could benefit."    

Preschool Academy will be in two separate classrooms located in First Baptist Church, 525 South Ave. The preschool will follow the Springfield Public School District calendar.

The pilot program is open to 24 children, age 3, with the hope of seeing this first class through till they start kindergarten in two years.  To help reach families in need of such a program, Springfield Public Schools provided a list of families who were unable to be served by other preschool programs. Children will learn about science, music, art, technology (each child will have a tablet) and physical education.

Families must meet poverty guidelines to qualify, as well as agree to attendance, uniform and parent-participation requirements. Joy said each child will be given three days-worth of uniforms. Girls will get a polo dress with leggings along with polo shirts and khaki pants. Boys will get polo shirts and khaki pants. As it gets cooler, Joy said they will add sweatshirt or sweaters. The uniforms are free but it is the parent's responsibility to see that the uniforms are worn and clean every day.

Children must be dropped off and picked up on time, as well as maintain 90 percent attendance. Families must participate in the Parents as Teachers program. At least one parent must attend weekly parent meetings 9 a.m. every Wednesday. These meetings cover a variety of subjects like parenting skills, couponing, budgeting and healthy cooking. They must also attend Living Free classes 7:30- 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. Families must attend any bible-teaching church they choose, Joy said.

Kent Parsley, chief operations officer for James River Church, called the preschool "truly a partnership" with First Baptist Church. "We believe this program will be a great ministry to the community, and with expanded partnerships we plan to open more Preschool Academies at other churches on the north side over the next few years," he said in an email. 

While we know we cannot educate someone out of poverty, we know a good education helps.