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Dr. Lacey Southerland, board member of the Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy in West Point, says children with a quality preschool or early education experience are more likely to contribute to a quality workforce.

Early education academy in West Point is looking for students

WEST POINT — Getting a head start on a child’s education can lead to a higher chance at success in life, according to data shared by board members with the Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy in West Point.

Dr. Lacey Southerland enlightened members of the West Point Lions Club Wednesday about the new early childhood education center geared toward three-year-old children.

This is the first year of the early education center, and it plans to foster a child’s development through a play-based approach. Southerland said that play-based approaches make the students want to be in the classroom rather than something they feel they have to do.

She said the center focuses heavily on literacy because data shows that if students are literate by third grade, they are more likely to graduate from high school.

“That is a big marker for a person’s success,” Southerland said. “That is an area of struggle locally, so we wanted to contribute to that by getting kids started early with pre-literacy.”

Southerland said the program got started after West Point Mayor Steve Tramell visited a workforce development conference and learned that students in an early education program or a pre-kindergarten class are more likely to perform better in life.

“Generally, those kids who had a quality pre-school experience, have better employment, more likely to graduate high school, less likely to be in jail, more likely to be a tax-paying citizen of a community and more likely to contribute to the workforce,” Southerland said.

She said Tramell came back and rounded up several community leaders to figure out a way to get West Point children on the right path.

The classes meet from 7:30 a.m. until noon during the week, and there is a regular teacher, Ellen Fox, that was hired by the board of directors. The academy is a nonprofit organization.

Tuition starts at $359 a month and a child must be three years old by Sept. 1.

Southerland said one of the main goals is to teach literacy now, with a larger goal in mind down the road.

“Literacy is one of our top goals and workforce development is our long-term goal,” she said.

The target audience for the academy is the West Point Housing Authority, which is just around the corner from the West Point Youth Center, 1128 O.G. Skinner Drive in West Point.

Southerland said the academy is looking for a heterogeneous mix of students.

We want kids from tuition-paying families and scholarship families,” she said. “All the data shows that heterogenous mixes are very good for kids. Kids need to be with kids who are not like them. That really helps them develop well, and they learn from each other and they both achieve in those environments.”

Parents aren’t left out of this equation either. Monica Barber of the academy said Wednesday that parents will be required to be part of one parent conference with the teacher.

They will also attend a parent meeting once a semester to learn about the school policies and become acquainted with other parents and staff members.

Barber said the school will also ask for an in-home visit, where the teacher will visit the home to meet the child in their environment.

The academy is currently accepting applications.

For more information, visit wpcela.org.