Apr. 7—TUPELO — The Lee County School District is launching a new three-week "Key Up for Kindergarten" jump-start program this summer to help prepare incoming students for their first year of school.
As part of the program, students will attend classes taught by the district's kindergarten teachers weekdays from June 7 through June 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Spaces will be available on each kindergarten campus — Mooreville Elementary, Verona Elementary, Saltillo Primary and Shannon Primary.
A total of 165 students will be accepted into the program across the county's four elementary schools — 15 students per classroom and 11 classrooms in total.
The number of classrooms at each school is based on their projected kindergarten enrollment numbers. There will be four classes at Saltillo, three at Mooreville and two each at Verona and Shannon.
Any incoming LCSD kindergarten student is eligible to enroll for free, but space is limited and applicants will be considered by need. All materials and a grab-and-go lunch will be provided, but parents will be responsible for their child's transportation.
Registration began in early March, and the deadline to apply is April 30. Students must be 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2021 to enroll. Parents can complete the online application under the "Parents" tab at www.leecountyschools.us or pick up a paper application at a school site.
Jodie Boyd, Early Childhood Liaison for Lee County School District, has overseen the development of the program. Although a couple of Lee County schools have hosted their own jumpstart programs sporadically in the past, this is the first time there will be a united districtwide effort.
As COVID-19 posted questions related to early childhood learning, the jump-start program seemed to be the answer, Boyd said. Planning began in January and really took off in February.
"We just know that kids need as much as much support as they can possibly get before they enter school," Boyd said. "That's where your success comes in."
Both the implementation of the Key Up for Kindergarten program and the funding for it are direct results of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee County Schools were allocated $4.2 million from the second round of Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funding approved as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in Dec. 2020.
Around $77,000 of those funds will be used for the Key Up program.
Though the pandemic affected virtually every institution, including education, in negative ways, Boyd said this program is one positive.
"It has allowed us to fulfill a dream we've had for years, and we hope it will only lead to more emphasis on early childhood and kindergarten readiness in our district," she said.
Boyd believes the program will allow the school district to reach students before they enter kindergarten and lay a foundation that will help them be successful through high school, in college and in life.
"We just know that when you invest in kids, if you invest good quality and intentional instruction, that's the best investment that you can make for kids," she said.