Three early childhood programs in the Carthage R-9 school system that have led vagabond lifestyles for the past few years will have new permanent homes, hopefully right after New Years 2015.

Three early childhood programs in the Carthage R-9 school system that have led vagabond lifestyles for the past few years will have new permanent homes, hopefully right after New Years 2015.

The Parents as Teachers, Early Childhood Special Education and Title I Preschool programs have moved from place to place over the past several years as the district works to free up classroom space for a growing student population.

At its December board meeting, the Carthage R-9 Board of Education approved the specifications for a 14,300-square-foot building to be built on the former band practice field on Fairview Street just east of the Congregation of the Mother Coredemptrix grounds to house those three programs in one place.

Carthage Assistant Superintendent Mark Baker said he hopes to have a contractor chosen for Board approval in January and hopes to start construction on the building in February.

Baker said this is the second consecutive major construction project the district will undertake without using local taxpayer money.

The $4 million Carthage Tech Center South was completed with state funds and local grant money in 2010.
Baker said money for this building will come from the federal Department of Education, for the 11,500-square-foot Early Childhood Special Education portion, and local grants and donations for the 2,800-square-foot Parents as Teachers side.

The cost of the building has been divided up according to that plan, with the Early Childhood side costing about $1.8 million and the Parents as Teachers side estimated at $450,000.

Superintendent Blaine Henningsen said the district will have to pay for the building first, then be reimbursed by the federal government for the Early Childhood side.

“We will be fully reimbursed by the federal government on a Special Education Grant for the expences associated with this,” Henningsen said. “This money is available now, that's why we're moving ahead with it. We'll be reimbursed over an eight-year period, so we'll get our money back on that. The Parents as Teachers side, we're trying to raise funds through a naming rights policy that the board adopted a couple of months ago, last August. We've also applied for some support from the Steadley Trust and the Boylan Foundation.”

Working together
Bringing these three pre-kindergarten education programs together has been a goal of the district for years.
Before the start of this school year, the Early Childhood Special Education program was moved from Steadley Elementary School to leased space in the Fairview Christian Church. The Title I Preschool, which was housed at Fairview Elementary School, was moved to Steadley Elementary. The Parents as Teachers program, which has moved seven times in its history, was moved from the Tiger Fieldhouse at the Carthage Middle School to the transition center, a building just north of the Carthage Junior High.

The three programs, which all deal with similar age children, have never been together in one place.
Back in May, Jane Goade, director of the Parents as Teachers program, said the three programs could better help Carthage children if they were in one place.

“In a perfect world, we would have an early childhood education center,” Goade said when giving The Carthage Press a tour of their offices at the Transition Center. “But we're workable here [in the transition center] and we have professionals that make it work in the other locations.”

Henningsen said the new building is “a win-win” for parents, the children in these programs and the teachers and professionals working with those children.

“Parents as Teachers works with over 1,000 families right now,” Henningsen said. “So those folks that come in here, and if the parent educators see any needs, special needs kids, they can walk right across the hallway and talk to folks about testing and getting those kids into the special education programming right there in that same facility.”

Goade said on Friday that the employees of the three programs are “beyond thrilled” to have see this building coming.

“I've been at the district for 14 years, some others in PAT have been there over 20 years and we've waited for this our whole careers,” Goade said. “We are the first impression a kid gets when entering this school district and we've been working to get all these entities together for years. Now if I'm screening a child and I see something that needs attention, I have to write up a big long report for the special education people to use. With this building, I can just take this child across the hall and talk to an expert.”

Naming rights
Henningsen said this project is completely seperate from the proposal to build a new elementary school to house fourth and fifth graders and ease overcrowding at the district's school buildings.

The R-9 Board is expected in January to approve putting on the April ballot a proposed $18 million bond issue to build that building and make other improvements without raising property taxes in the district.

Henningsen said this project will move forward whether that proposal passes or fails, using federal and private money.

To raise some of the private money, the Board of Education approved in August a naming rights policy allowing people to donate to the construction and have their donation recognized permanently in the building.

“We have created a menu, if you will, to have folks who are like-minded and want to support parents as teachers and early childhood to partner with us,” Henningsen said. “And we'll provide some naming opportunities on rooms and benches and pavers and so on and so forth.”

The choices on the menu range from $100 to have 45 characters etched on a 4x8 brick all the way to $100,000, payable over five years, to have the building named after an individual or company.

Other options include $10,000 to have one of seven classrooms in the building named, $12,000 for donor recognition plaques, $1,000 to have one of four benches named and others.

Henningsen and Baker said these efforts are in response to the Carthage 2020 public meetings where people told the district to try to build more facilities and classroooms without adding to residents' tax bills.

The Tech Center South was a $4 million project we did without local tax money and this will be our second in a row,” Henningsen said. “This is what Carthage 2020 folks wanted us to do. We're trying to do all these things. We're trying not to raise folks' taxes and we're trying to build this”