At the June 5 regular Board of Commission meeting Buncombe County Government announced two new investments to expand access to quality early childhood education. These new expansions are a direct result of strategic partnerships made possible through economic development funds previously allocated by the Board of Commissioners and will require no new funding. Collaboration with community leaders and stakeholders is part of the Commissioners’ coordinated approach to address short- and long-term needs around early childhood education. "Access to high quality early childhood education makes such a difference in children getting a strong start in life. It's exciting to be supporting these new initiatives as part of the County Commission's strategic priority of ensuring that every child in our community has an equal opportunity to thrive," says District 1 Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. “This board made a commitment this year, based on community input, to invest in those early years of a child’s education in a practical and productive way,” notes District 3 Commissioner Joe Belcher.
Addressing Short-Term Needs: YWCA Childcare Expansion
YWCA of Asheville is a provider of high quality early childhood education, serving 80 children through its Early Learning Program. With funding support from Buncombe County, YWCA will expand to serve an additional 42 children in its five-star, licensed childcare program. The expansion will include a new infant classroom as well as two Pre-K classrooms. County-identified, high-need families will receive priority, such as children in foster care with Health and Human Services. The YWCA is committed to increasing the number of childcare teachers through workforce development efforts such as hosting community college courses at its downtown location. In addition, the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women extends to its Early Learning Program through a commitment to a diverse workforce and serving children of color and low-income families. As part of this expansion, the YWCA will be an NC Pre-K site in order to leverage local investment and access state funding. The expansion is expected to be complete by mid-July with children starting by Aug. 1. For enrollment information contact Denise Purcell at 828-254-7206.
Addressing Long Term Needs: Partnership for Excellence in Early Childhood Education
Bringing partners together across multiple sectors, this innovative project will help build a strong community workforce in the field of early childhood education. Spearheaded by Warren Wilson College in a collaboration with Verner Center for Early Learning, A-B Tech, Buncombe County Schools, and others, the model will establish a pipeline for developing high-quality professionals. This partnership establishes a new opportunity for a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in early childhood. The program is open to working professionals and graduates of an early childhood program at the community college level and will offer a tailored four-year degree curriculum and apprenticeships at Verner. The program will begin enrolling students immediately. The partnership will also create opportunities for students to begin early childhood courses at Owen High School with introductory, hands-on experiences at Verner. Students will graduate as highly qualified professionals prepared to lead classrooms in early childhood centers. For enrollment information contact Dr. Maura Davis at 828-460-8620.