Four schools in Walker County will be getting new classrooms in the upcoming school year to benefit students in Pre-K through third-grade.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week that 34 new classrooms are being funded in school systems across the state as part of the state's Pre-K through 3rd Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning (P-3) program.
Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dennis Willingham confirmed that the school system has been awarded $180,000 to fund P-3 classrooms in county schools. Three kindergarten units will be funded at Carbon Hill Elementary School, six kindergarten units at Curry Elementary School, two kindergarten units at Parrish Elementary School, and three first grade units at Lupton Jr. High School.
Lupton was the first school in the county to pilot the P-3 curriculum, which has been in place for the 2020-21 school year. All of the school's kindergarten classrooms were revamped with new educational strategies that focus on whole child development — academic, emotional and social.
The grant funding also allowed for new classroom furnishings and learning tools for students at Lupton.
Ultimately, P-3 was designed to extend highly successful learning concepts in First Class Pre-K programs to also benefit students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades.
According to a press release on March 23 from the governor's office, "P-3 works to ensure student success and achievement gap closure by expanding access to the nationally recognized, high-quality First Class Pre-K program model and taking the most successful parts of K-3 initiatives to establish a strong foundation of early learning experiences that promote student achievement and success."
The P-3 program is funded by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education through the governor's Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative. Funding is also secured through the federal Preschool Development Grant, Birth through Five.
"P-3 was piloted in Lupton kindergarten classrooms last year," Willingham said. "There was so much success and excitement with the initiative that we are expanding these learning opportunities to three other schools in our system."
Willingham said Walker County Schools Elementary Director Dr. Tanya Guin and Federal Programs Clerk Courtney Boren were responsible for submitting a grant application to secure additional P-3 classrooms.
The new classrooms will be implemented during the 2021-22 school year.
Willingham said Lupton Principal Corey Shubert piloted the P-3 program for principals in the school system. Shubert and Guin, as well as Lupton reading coach Alicia Harris, participated in a year-long professional development on the P-3 curriculum.
Some teachers in the Walker County school system will participate in P-3 training in May, and administrators will be trained this summer on how to implement the curriculum.
"This is a big commitment for our administrators, reading coaches, and teachers," Willingham said. "We hope to continue to see P-3 implemented in all of our schools in the near future."
The governor's office reports that just over 3,000 children in the state of Alabama are taking part in the P-3 program, and the 34 new classrooms added across the state will result in more than 3,600 students being enrolled in the P-3 curriculum.
Ivey said P-3 will allow many Alabama students the opportunity to develop an even stronger educational foundation which will help them for years to come.
“P-3 works to align the gains in First Class Pre-K to ensure students do not have a gap in instruction," Ivey said. "I am proud that we can provide more tools for teachers and school leaders to continue providing students with the best models for learning in the critical early years.”
Schools in Cullman County, Montgomery County, Pell City, Selma, Tuscaloosa County and Winston County will also receive P-3 classrooms for the upcoming school year.
A total of 208 schools in 21 counties will have P-3 classrooms at the start of the 2021-22 school year.
In November 2020, Harris told the Daily Mountain Eagle that P-3 concepts were keeping students more engaged at Lupton.
"All of the activities they do now are more hands-on, inquiry-based," she said. "It promotes the growth of the whole child, social and emotional, and their academics. Everything is included to make sure that there are no developmental stages left out, and that is supposed to reduce the achievement gaps."