The Joplin Board of Education will be asked tonight to support an expansion of the school district’s early childhood education center.
The early childhood program is housed in trailers on the McKinley Elementary School campus and enrolls about 250 children. Administrators will recommend that the district construct a separate building for the program — estimated to cost between $9.5 million and $14.5 million — that could encourage enrollment of up to 600 students, according to documentation from the district.
The district said enrollment in the program has grown from 100 students to the current 250 in the past six years. The number of licensed day cares in Joplin, meanwhile, has shrunk from 67 to 30 as a result of the May 2011 tornado, the district said.
“When you think about the recovery effort and the critical importance of child care for young families, if we’re going to draw young families to this community, we most certainly have to be able to provide child care for those families, and that’s an area that’s sorely lacking right now,” Superintendent C.J. Huff said.
Enhanced early childhood programming also is needed to ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten, which often can be an indicator of whether they will succeed in the classroom, he said.
“If kids are ready for kindergarten on the first day and we can help prepare them for that rigorous curriculum, they’re much more likely to be successful beyond kindergarten and their school career,” he said.
Huff said that if the expansion proposal is approved, the district would seek funding from sources including the Community Development Block Grant program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help construct the early childhood center. He said the district doesn’t plan to seek a bond issue for the project.
In other business tonight, the board will consider:
• Nearly $2.18 million in bid packages for testing and inspections, concrete, earthwork and structural precast concrete to build community safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.
• Proposals totaling $553,000 for new projectors, digital signs and displays, and an upgraded network infrastructure at the new Joplin High School.
• About $287,000 in proposals for new computers, construction technology equipment and kitchen equipment for classrooms at the new Franklin Technology Center. These purchases would be covered under a state grant in which the district would be responsible for 25 percent of the costs.
• A $29,861 bid from Ozark Mountain Energy for fuel for district vehicles.
THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION will meet at 5:30 p.m. today for a work session and at 7 p.m. for its regular meeting at the administration building, 3901 E. 32nd St. The board also has scheduled a closed session for discussion of legal and real estate matters, personnel issues and individually identifiable records.