Two hundred youngsters will have a new place to go for quality early childhood education come 2009. Today, work will begin on an Educare center in Oklahoma City.
The facility will help children from birth through age 5 to develop their social and educational skills, and strengthen their families at the same time. The center is coming together through the collaboration of several major players in the community, including the Inasmuch Foundation, Sunbeam Family Services, the Community Action Agency, which runs Head Start, and Oklahoma City Public Schools. None could start Educare on their own, project leaders said. There already is an Educare center in Tulsa, and this one will make Oklahoma the first state to have two. In addition to the community organizations, founding donors include the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Aubrey and Katie McClendon, Tom and Sch’ree Ward, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation, the Potts Family Foundation, George and Nancy Records, and the Kirkpatrick Fam- ily Fund. The Garrett family though Garrett and Company LLC donated the land, on the corner of Byers Avenue and SE Grand Boulevard in Oklahoma City.United Way of Central Oklahoma also is contributing toward the center’s operations. About Educare The first Educare was opened in Chicago in 2000, largely by a man named Irving Harris. There are five others in the nation and one more, besides the one in Oklahoma City, being planned. All were started by local philanthropists or philanthropic organizations. Tulsa’s main donor, George Kaiser, pledged $1 million to help get the southeast Oklahoma City center started. The flagship elements of the program involve highly qualified and highly paid teachers, and low student-teacher ratios. There will be no more than eight children in every birth-toage-3 classroom. Each of those classrooms will have an adult with a bachelor’s degree in childhood education for every four students, plus a classroom aide, said Ray Bitsche, executive director of Sunbeam Family Services and president of Oklahoma City Educare. There will be no more than 16 children in every 3-to-5-year-old classroom. Each of those classrooms will have two adults, including one degreed teacher, he said. In addition, an experienced teacher with a master’s degree in early childhood education will supervise four classrooms and provide additional direction for those adults. The teachers will be paid the same as public school teachers, which is more than early childhood educators typically earn, Bitsche said.
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Work will begin today on the new Educare center, shown in this illustration. The center is expected to open in January 2009. PROVIDED ILLUSTRATION