School administrators hold grand opening of Early Childhood Center

School administrators hold grand opening of Early Childhood Center

The Russellville City Schools Early Childhood Center is a testament to teamwork.

The center, located in the former Mars Hill Preschool building on East Lawrence Street, came together through the combined efforts of the Russellville City Board of Education and Superintendent Heath Grimes, Russellville Mayor David Grissom and the Russellville City Council, Rep. Jamie Kiel, the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, along with the hard work of many RCS administrators and employees.

The building was purchased for $400,000 by Russellville City Schools. The City of Russellville is contributing $25,000 a year for five years to help offset that cost.

The Russellville City Schools Pre-Kindergarten program is housed in the building. This program, for four-year old children, is under the authority of West Elementary School Principal Deanna Hollimon and West Assistant Principal Monica Moon.

RCS officials held an open house and ribbon cutting October 9 at the Early Childhood Center. Among those in attendance was Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

Cooper said the commitment shown by Russellville City Schools in purchasing and updating the facility speaks well of the system’s belief in the benefits of early education.

“We are so pleased to see the City of Russellville invest in pre-kindergarten,” Cooper said. “The data shows that kids who attend Alabama First Class Pre-K programs show success in middle school and high school. It’s an investment that pays off later for the entire city and nation.”

The center has five classrooms that can house up to 18 students in each, according to Hollimon. 78 children are enrolled in this year’s Pre-K program, including some who are taking part in virtual learning due to COVID-19 concerns.

The center provides before- and after-school care for children of working parents, from the hours of 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Hollimon said there is daily interaction between West staff and the Early Childhood Center, including rotating visits from RCS School Resource Officers.

“Children may be enrolled anytime, as we have open enrollment,” Hollimon said. “We always have a waiting list if there are no spots immediately available, and we want all spots filled.

“We see students who were in Pre-K at the top of the reading data. We teach early literacy skills, prepared through learning instruction,” she added.

Russellville City Councilman Jamie Harris, whose twin boys are in the Pre-K program, said he’s seen the benefits first-hand.

“It’s a wonderful group of ladies and a great program. They helped raise my children to where they are today,” Harris said. “This is what happens when everyone works together. And I can speak personally that the ladies on the staff here are top-notch.”

Teachers at the Early Childhood Center include Lisa Gann, Libby Scruggs, Jennifer Lindsey, Lauren Taylor and Tiffany Terry. There are also five auxiliary teachers on-site, a special education coordinator, Meg Knight and a nurse/bookkeeper/receptionist Kellie Dowdy.

The grand opening of the Early Childhood Center came on the same week as construction began on the new Russellville High School addition.

“This has been an exciting week for Russellville City Schools,” Grimes said. “We want to welcome our board members, our mayor and city council, and our Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Dr. Cooper.

“She and her predecessor were very important in making this happen, as were our board, city council and our state representative Jamie Kiel. Sometimes you have to do things outside the box to grow and that’s what we want to do,” Grimes added.