We are excited to welcome All Saints’ Episcopal Church’s partnership with Cabarrus County Schools’ Lockhart Early Learning Center as a new AOC member. We were very happy to speak with School Liason, Jackie Whitfield, about this special partnership, how they started out, what some of their challenges are, and how their work is affecting the congregation and community.
AOC: What motivated your congregation to launch your partnership?
JW: In 2013, a forty year old preschool at All Saints’ Episcopal Church closed. The education wing and playground were silent. At the same time all the 501c3 groups in Cabarrus County began to meet. We found out that the public school system had a yearly waiting list of 400 preschoolers who qualified for preschool services and had no seats for them. We had room for 36 children but our building needed to be brought up to public school codes. A partnership began between these three groups: Cabarrus Partnership for Children who controlled subsidy monies, Cabarrus County Schools who had children who needed to be in school, and All Saints’ Episcopal Church, who had a faithful spirit and a willingness to open their campus. We all wanted our preschool children to be in a safe, loving and wonderful learning environment.
AOC: What needs are meeting in your partner school?
JW: Every year our county has 600 children ages 3 and 4 who qualify for services because they are developmentally delayed, live in economically challenged homes or have a language barrier. The neediest are served and about 400 are placed on a waiting list. ASEC has opened its campus to provide public preschool space. We hope the model and partnership, which began in 2014, can be duplicated and that we will see the waiting list disappear. ASEC is also offering support to adults who have children enrolled at the Lockhart Early Learning Center with ESL and literacy classes, we purchase books for each child at Christmas, volunteers serve in the school, we offer Orff music instruction to the children using a trained music teacher and the church provides the Orff instruments.
AOC: What is your partnership’s biggest on- going challenge
JW: There is no road map-we have a public school working under all their guidelines and rules and a church operating at the same time on the same campus. We are learning as we go and working through things as they happen. Prior to opening all parties worked diligently to be proactive and think of many situations which may arise, but there have been things that have happened which we did not anticipate. We are all dedicated to making this partnership work!
AOC: What positive impact have you seen in both congregation and your community so far?
JW: All parties want to offer our children a preschool experience. ASEC is happy to see the space used and to know we are helping to insure a child’s schools’ success. Our school system and parents are happy to have their children off the waiting list and in school. We are a model for our community on working together to solve problems. A child’s smile warms the heart and gives us hope for our future!