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Tenita Paige was scared for a long time. She was struggling with unemployment and raising her two-year-old daughter, Treasure, by herself.

Then, walking around her Ward 7 neighborhood, she saw a sign posted for a new Educare School opening in Parkside/Kenilworth next month. The school promised all-day, every-day child care and educational development for free. Paige thought it would be good for Treasure, applied for admission right away and found she was qualified.

So instead of remaining anxious about the future, Paige was able to change her outlook on life dramatically. She says now there is time not only to look for a job without having to worry about her daughter’s well-being but also to pursue her professional interests teaching pre-schoolers or in the culinary arts. She would like to get a teaching certificate.

Paige feels confident she now can be a role model for her daughter, rather than the reverse. “I feel better going out, looking for a job, going out on interviews, finding a job. It’s a lot easier,”

she said. “It makes me feel good I won’t have to worry about her.”

The new Educare school, set to open at the end of June, is creating quite a stir in the neighborhood among educators, officials of nonprofits and parents.

“This is something that has been buzzing long before I came to this organization,” said Ayris Scales, the newly appointed executive director of D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative (PNI),

one of the nonprofit organizations that partnered with Educare to fund the project.

“They should be [excited], because of the high standards and quality of the education these young people will receive. We’re ecstatic to have Educare within that footprint,” Scales said. DC

PNI focuses most of its efforts in Ward 7, where Parkside/Kentworth is located. There, 80 percent of families consist of single mothers raising their own kids. With this new school, those mothers can go out, look for jobs and be self sufficient, rather than staying at home and relying on public assistance.

“We’re saying now that all children matter, all have a right to quality education,” Scales said.

While there are other day care alternatives in the area, as well as elsewhere in D.C., this is the first that will offer year-round, every-day care to children six weeks to four years old, just before entrance to kindergarten. The school sees its mission as making these young children ready for kindergarten when they get there at age five.

Parent Lecha Green, who is sending her 19-month old twins Tensley and Temple to the new school, said she likes Educare’s track record, having been dissatisfied with other programs in the area. The organization has several other schools in the U.S., all of which have been successful so far, particularly in Chicago, Green noted.

“I think this center is bringing hope to the community,” Green said. New stores and residential apartments are going up, too. For the first time in a long time, Green can see the D.C. government investing in the future of Ward 7.

The school, funded by both Headstart and pre-Headstart, will have room for 175 children at a time, including infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

“There are clearly more than that who need access to early childhood care and education,” D.C. Educare Exeuctive Director Carol Howard said in a recent interview. “Our expectation is to be

part of a community of practitioners to serve those at risk of poverty; they’re the ones who benefit most from highquality care. We are trying [together] to change the trajectory of children

who are at risk.”

To qualify for admission, a family must have an income at or below the federal poverty line established by Headstart, and priority is given to families who need all-day, year-round care for their young children. Beyond that, vacancies are filled on a first come, first-serve basis. Howard noted that they have plenty of vacancies remaining for 3- and 4-year olds. Admission for all accepted families is free. Pre-application, to see if one qualifies for admission, is done on the Educare School website. In addition to the 175 admitees, HeadStart requires the school to maintain a waiting list.

The Educare School program aims to go into communities established as ones with the greatest need and is intended to be a comprehensive child care and early education-focused school.

Howard commented further that the school staff wants families to keep their children in the school until they reach kindergarten age so they can build relationships with them. In each classroom there will be three professional staff members: a head teacher with at least a bachelor’s degree, an assistant who has at least an associate’s degree and an aide who has a

child development credential.

“We have a long time to develop a relationship with a family [coming in] and stay with them until they are ready to move on,” Howard said. “Hopefully they emerge from that experience stronger.”

The program will be able to measure results, Howard said, when the first class of 4-year-olds is ready to leave them and enter kindergarten. The empirical research that has been done says education is particularly important at this early developmental stage. It, and others around the country already in operation, are the best test of impact, Howard said.

Each Educare school has a comprehensive plan to measure child and parent outcomes, which helps with continuous improvements. The local results will also contribute to a national study of the schools’ effectiveness, Howard added.

Sharita Slayton, DC PNI Director of Resident Engagement, said she felt like a better mother now that she could provide for her child.

“The mayor has said he wishes he could start education in the womb. Educare is the right start, getting them started at age six weeks,” Slayton said.