Program supported

To the Journal editor:

Four years ago, the Great Start Collaborative reported there were 62 children on the waiting list for early childhood education in Marquette. MAPS had just closed Vandenboom Elementary School and the Y was looking for a place to hold summer camp.

Both organizations invested in this program, $105,000 from MAPS and $200,000 from the Y. We began a partnership to provide high quality accredited early childhood education. Today over 150 children are enrolled and an additional 43 are on our waiting list.

The Vandenboom Early Childhood Center is the only NAEYC accredited center in our county, and of all centers in Michigan only 4 percent are accredited. The Y program has provided MAPS with 67 school of choice children which has provided MAPS with $1,109,289 over four years. The Y pays rent to MAPS in the amount of $40,260 a year.

We have been a committed partner, fulfilling our original intent of the program which was to provide children who are ready to learn, can read, do simple math problems, know how to work with others, and how to self manage.

In 2011, MAPS special education department moved to Vandenboom, this partnership has allowed for the development of child specific education plans for children identified with special needs as young as three. This change in process identifies special needs children two years early and saves the district thousands of dollars long term in having to hire aids.

This vote to re-align the school buildings will displace the Early Childhood program at a time when the state of Michigan is placing more emphasis on early childhood education. Removing this program will be a tremendous loss for our community.

There are alternative plans that could save this important early childhood program, prevent the district from having to spend approximately $600,000 to retro fit buildings, add $300,000 – $400,00 in annual operating costs, and cause one third of MAPS elementary age children to be redistricted.

We encourage you to visit Vandenboom Child Development Center and see what is happening in this facility. Call a school board member and show your support for the program. As you may know, the Y is for Youth Development. We will continue to support early childhood education and work to close the achievement gap for children in our community.

Lisa Coombs-Gerou, CEO

YMCA of Marquette County