Some of the students will come from existing programs and waiting lists at Sunbeam and Head Start. What also makes Educare stand out from other early childhood centers is the way it will integrate community involvement. “This is not a program where they can drop off their child in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon,” Bitsche said. Parents must agree to set goals as a family, participate in programs on campus and reinforce classwork at home. “It will require that some families make changes in their lives,” he said. The children, who will come from homes with entrenched social problems such as poverty, will grow through play, games, music and art. Brooke Salmans, who has taught at the Tulsa Educare since it opened in 2006, said curriculum development also is unique. It’s based on individualization, she said. “If we were supposed to talk about leaves one week and an airplane flies overhead at recess and the kids won’t stop talking about the airplane — leaves (are) out, airplanes are in. The kids take control,” she said. Educare needs $10.5 million for its capital budget — the building and an endowment for future maintenance needs; and a little more than $3.1 million to operate annually — mostly because of the staff expense, said Bob Ross, CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation and chairman of Oklahoma City Educare. Educare’s forecasted revenue is just above $3 million, leaving a $93,000 operating deficit that the area agencies are working to raise. Educare also is about $3.2 million short of meeting its goal for the capital budget. Educare supporters said they hope the center empowers children. “We want to see kids who come from high risk circumstances to start school healthy and prepared to compete with any other child at the same grade level, as opposed to today where children start school with so many deficiencies,” Bitsche said. Ross said it just makes common sense to prepare children for kindergarten. “We think we’re preparing these kids and providing a service to them that will enable them to achieve long-term success,” Ross said. Sunbeam will begin taking applications for enrollment in late 2008, Ross 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