Partnership, collaboration and vision celebrated at Gordon Early Literacy Center grand opening
When the Gordon Early Literacy Center in Coatesville opened in September 2016, it was unlike any other preschool program in the region. Through a partnership between the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), the Coatesville Area School District (CASD) and the United Way, it was designed to serve 320 preschool children who reside in the Coatesville area. Children attending have access to instructional technology, services and supports free of charge at a cutting-edge facility.
Research shows that children who participate in quality preschool programs are more likely to enter school ready to learn and to have successful lifelong educational outcomes. Yet, not every child has access to the same preschool learning opportunities, which is something the Gordon Early Literacy Center hopes to rectify.
“The Coatesville Area School District is proud to be a part of a collaboration that increases preschool opportunities for students,” said Dr. Cathy Taschner, superintendent of CASD. “The addition of preschool classes was a part of the district’s Literacy Equity Initiative. The opening of the Gordon Early Literacy Center coincides with the Coatesville Kindergarteners’ Ready to Read program and is foundational to our ‘on grade by third grade’ literacy efforts.”
In total, the Gordon Early Literacy Center will house 18 classrooms and provide related preschool services such as physical and speech therapy and specialized instruction. The CCIU will operate nine Head Start classrooms and four preschool special education classrooms, CASD will run four preschool classrooms and the United Way will pilot a Uniting Neighbors Impacting Families and Youth (UNIFY) classroom.
“There aren’t any other centers like this in the area. The partnership, number of programs, diversity of students in one location makes the Gordon Early Literacy Center unique,” said Sam Ewing, assistant director of Student Services for the CCIU. “In addition, it is an inclusive school; it will serve students with disabilities as well as their typically developing peers.” Due to its inclusive nature, all students will grow and learn together.
Research has found that all children benefit from inclusion, which helps them achieve more, gain confidence, become independent, develop a sense of self and foster academic performance. Regardless of the type, the classrooms at the Gordon Early Literacy Center will incorporate seamlessly together with curriculum and training. For example, the United Way will help to recruit and staff the UNIFY classroom with volunteers, and the CCIU will train them.
Above all, the Gordon Early Literacy Center is easily accessible to students and families, which was key when planning this center. “Some students in Coatesville qualify for services like Head Start, but have been unable to obtain transportation to attend Head Start Centers,” explained Tamara Acuna, supervisor of Head Start. “The Gordon Early Literacy Center is within walking distance for the students, which will help increase preschool readiness in the district.”
In addition, all of the programs are free of charge, although certain programs have qualifying criteria. The Gordon Early Literacy Center is a public and private partnership that receives federal and state grants to fund and operate Head Start and Preschool Special Education services. Additionally, CASD and CCIU are contributing additional funds to operate classrooms for children that are not covered through the available grants.
The governing bodies that oversee the preschool services are supportive of this blended funding model. “The Gordon Early Literacy Center is proof of the good work that we can accomplish through public and private partnerships,” said Dr. Joseph O’Brien, executive director of the CCIU. “This project has united neighbors and community organizations together to have a positive impact on the children and families in our Coatesville community.”