On Sept. 15, Representative Joe Radinovich (DFL- Crosby), who serves on the Early Childhood Committee, and Representative Joe Mullery, chair of the Early Childhood and Youth Development Committee, visited the McGregor School District’s Early Childhood program, which serves approximately 50 students ranging in age from three to five years old. Radinovich and Mullery visited with classroom teacher Melanie Guida and Community Education Director Lisa Kruse to discuss the importance of high-quality early learning programs in preparing students for successful school careers and implementation of the state’s early learning scholarships in greater Minnesota.

McGregor’s early childhood program was awarded a Parent Aware four-star rating for early education quality (the highest ranking possible) last year. By voluntarily becoming rated under Parent Aware, a program demonstrates its focus on early learners to ensure they are well-prepared for school. Top-rated programs exemplify an engaged school readiness partner for parents, ongoing assessment of a child’s progress, lesson plans and goals that are adapted to meet individual needs and have staff that are trained in developmental disabilities and can communicate across cultures.

As a result of the four-star status, McGregor’s early childhood program was eligible to apply for and received two $25,000 Pathway II Early Learning Scholarships from the state of Minnesota, one in the 2013-2014 school year and another for the current year. The funding has provided for an additional afternoon session of early childhood preschool, resulting in 70 more hours of student contact time. It is also being used for curriculum enhancements, incorporation of technology in the classroom and the purchase of supplies and equipment. The scholarships will help expand McGregor’s Kinder Kamp, a transitional program held in late-August which allows incoming kindergarten students the opportunity to meet their teachers, get acquainted with classmates and ease into all-day kindergarten.

Kruse led Radinovich, a familiar face at the schools within his district, and Mullery on a tour of the entire school facility.

“The McGregor community has always been a strong supporter of its school district and overwhelmingly passed a referendum for an addition to the school 13 years ago,” explained Kruse. “Not only does the community support our youth but they benefit from the availability of the facility for community education classes, the community fitness center and other activities. It is their building, too.”

The afternoon concluded with a meeting with Superintendent Paul Grams to discuss topics ranging from increased student enrollment, McGregor’s free breakfast and lunch program, advanced high school course offerings and other issues that may be unique to rural school districts.

“The legislature has made historic investments in education to build the world’s best workforce – including all-day kindergarten, early childhood scholarships, pay back of the IOU owed to schools and a college tuition freeze. The budget also included legislation I authored to close funding equity gaps for low-revenue schools – most of which are rural schools,” said Radinovich. “This is a huge step toward ensuring that students in Crow Wing or Aitkin County have the same educational opportunities as a child in Edina or Eagan; that is key to the economic vitality of our area now and in the future.”

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