Special to Jacksonville Daily Progress
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Imagine if you will, a bustling school campus where children, parents and teachers are all excited about attendance. Not possible you say? Every school has someone who doesn’t want to be there—whether it be a student, parent, or staff member, right? Well, at Kids First Weekday Education one would be hard pressed to find that person. KFWE has become an enigma in the Jacksonville community. Excitement about the entire program is just one way it differs from the traditional school.
When you visit the school, you immediately know that it isn’t quite the norm. Down one hall you will find babies and toddlers. Around the corner you will notice a class of Kindergarten, First grade, and Second grade students. No one else in the surrounding area has tackled the growth and education needs of such a range of children.
Step into the office and you will hear about something else unusual about the school—growth. Most private schools can only dream of what Kids First has witnessed. At the end of the school year of 2011 the school had 35 children enrolled. The tough economy had left its mark on the campus. However, when the new school year got underway, evidence of growth had already begun.
By the end of the year, the school was celebrating a whopping 94 percent growth with 68 students. The growth continued into 2012-2013 and on into the current school year. This month, the school celebrates its 100th enrollment.
Kids First Weekday Education had humble beginnings as a mother’s day out ministry in 1997. Approximately ten years later it transitioned to a 5-day a week program. Since that time, school leaders have worked to tweak its focus so that it becomes stronger educationally. All the hard work has paid off.
Holly Yount, Administrative Director, came to the school in the summer of 2011. She had just completed her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at Dallas Baptist University. Yount says, “I was hesitant at first because I just didn’t know what to expect.” Yount had spent nine years teaching in JISD and another year at The Brook Hill School in Bullard. “I relished the opportunity to take what I had experienced in both the public and private settings to use here at Kids First.”
Yount settled into the office, met her teachers, and began surveying parents to form a vision for the school. “Parents kept saying they wanted more than a group care program. They wanted true educational opportunities,” says Yount.
That first year several new components were added to the program—First Wednesday chapel lessons, a hot-meal service, music class, and computer class. In 2012, they added science and social studies based enrichment lessons, speech assistance, and summer camp. With each new addition, parents and staff have expressed their approval. Yount says, “The growth has been phenomenal. We have truly been blessed. While we know responding to the community interests has assisted our numbers, we know that is just one small component. Friendly and loving staff members, educational opportunities, and lots of prayer have kept us moving forward.
Teachers within the program have welcomed the way the changes have impacted the campus environment. Patsy Dawson serves as the Speech Therapist and pull-out instructor for the program. She says, “I enjoy my job because when the students practice difficult sounds I get the opportunity to watch them grow in their self-confidence. In turn, that self-confidence manifests itself in the child openly communicating with family and peers.”
This year, additions to the program offerings include physical education classes for PK4 through second grade. Thursday P.E. class is tumbling with local dance and tumbling teacher, Kim Fugler. Once a month the KinderPlus students have an art class.
Barbara Sanford serves at Kids First Weekday Education as a PreK4 teacher. She also has a daughter enrolled in the KinderPlus class. Sanford says, “I enjoy the encouragement I receive to continually expand on my classroom curriculum and I love working in the Christian environment.” From a parental perspective Mrs. Sanford says she feels confident that her daughter receives nurturing as well as an education.
Heather Alexander, a teacher in JISD, echoes Sanford’s feelings. “We have been amazed with what all three of our kids have learned academically. It is so much more than numbers and letters.
The staff genuinely cares about the kids. Students grow academically, socially, spiritually, and civically as they participate in projects that benefit children around the world.”
The children raised money in the fall to provide socks and underwear for orphans in Ukraine. Additionally, the oldest group of children in the KinderPlus class have been corresponding with children in South Korea and learning many differences in cultures.
Pre-enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year will be March 1—April 30. Families with children in the early elementary age groups are strongly encouraged to call for information. The office staff may be reached by calling, 903-284-6124 or email, KidsFirst@firstjax.org.