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20th FSS ‘steps’ toward kindergarten prep

updated Wednesday, July 12, 2017
170628-F-SY464-1018.JPG 
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The 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center advertises that it is now accepting applications for the S.C. First Steps 4-year-old kindergarten program, June 28, 2017, at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. The 20th Fighter Wing joins 64 South Carolina school districts as the first military installation in the state to offer the program, which provides educational readiness to 4-year-olds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Laura L.V. Claypool)
By Tech. Sgt. Laura L.V. Claypool, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The 20th Force Support Squadron joins more than 200 program providers across 64 South Carolina school districts to offer the S.C. First Steps 4-year-old kindergarten program.

As the first military installation in the state granted as a federally-licensed program provider, Shaw will meet S.C. guidelines for First Steps 4K child eligibility, classroom curriculum and structure, while continuing to uphold the federal standards for child and youth services offered on an Air Force installation.

Working for nearly a year to obtain approval through the S.C. Legislature, the 20th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate office and Shaquita Lett, former 20th FSS Airman and Family Services flight chief, used a similar North Carolina program, which grants military installations authority to operate a state-licensed program, as a model for Shaw’s program request.
 
Since federal child care program certifications are more stringent than state-level requirements, S.C. accepted Shaw’s current certificates and granted the program in April, said Shantel Walker, 20th FW JA director of general law.
 
The program will be housed in the CDC and for the first year will have one classroom available, providing up to 20 students exposure to the First Steps 4K educational curriculum in preparation for kindergarten.
 
“The continuity of education the program provides will help maintain not just educational standards but the ability to advance military children’s educational careers,” said Walker, a former military child who personally experienced frequent moves and school changes.
 
The 180-day program will be offered from approximately 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and children enrolled will be eligible for the traditional child care offered before and after program hours at the CDC.
 
“We wanted to get this program here to help meet the schooling needs of our families,” said Yulanda Richardson, 20th FSS CDC director. “With the Shaw First Steps 4K, parents will have easy access to their children right on base and we hope the accessibility will help ease potential worry.”
 
Having the spaces available on Shaw not only creates a close educational opportunity, but also can alleviate the need for extra-hour care during exercises and extended work hours for base personnel.
 
Child and youth services offer care for Team Shaw children ages 6-weeks to 5-years-old at the CDC, after-school and summer care programs at the youth center, and in-home care options through family child care providers.
 
The Shaw First Steps 4K program will follow the curriculum criteria developed in accordance with the National Association for the Education of Young Children which is currently used for all age groups at the CDC.

NAEYC curriculum promotes learning and development in social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive areas, allowing children opportunities to learn and develop through exploration and play. Additions for the program curriculum will include age-appropriate math, reading and writing skills.
 
Children eligible for First Steps 4K must be 4-years-old on or before Sept. 1 and meet family income requirements. An admissions waiting list is available for families who do not qualify for tuition-free enrollment.
 
By providing care and support for those who sacrifice and support the men and women of Team Shaw, the 20th FSS opens its doors to the youngest family members as they prepare to enter their educational journey.


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