Aberdeen child care centers earn 4-Star rating

By Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN – Two Aberdeen child care facilities have reached a milestone in early childhood education by attaining 4-Star status in the Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System. They are the first in the county to reach this level.

L&J Nursery Child Care and Learning Center on Hillcrest Drive and Calvert’s ABC Preschool on Hwy. 145, both have earned 4-Star certification by meeting the set guidelines and undergoing inspections by the Department of Human Services’ Office of Children and Youth to assure that the criteria had been reached.

Combined, the two child care centers serve a total of 119 children both in daycare and after-school care, ages infant through school age. By attaining the 4-Star level, they assure greater school preparedness for the preschoolers as well as becoming eligible for additional state funds.

Both of the child care centers are participants in the Gilmore Early Learning Initiative (GELI) Horizon program. According to GELI assistant director Drussel Bailey, this is a major step forward for preschool education in the area. Both of these Aberdeen child care centers began as 1-Star facilities, meaning they only held a Mississippi child care license.

Now, both of the centers have professionally qualified staff that attend continuing education workshops and who are trained in early childhood care. The facilities both have environments that meet the strict guidelines for 4-Star accreditation with various learning centers set up for the children. There is also a parent involvement program at each facility and parent resource areas where parents check out learning materials. Several other 4-Star criteria were also met, including those pertaining to nutrition, record-keeping and environment.

“When you reach 4-Star, you’re really at the top,” said Bailey. “These were originally beautiful places but just babysitting centers and they have voluntarily changed their whole culture to be learning centers. They now have an education component.” He said the children who attend such highly accredited child care facilities will have a definite advantage when they begin school. Studies show that students who receive quality preschool care perform better when they enter grade school.

There are currently 1,076 preschoolers county-wide attending daycares that are participants in the GELI Horizon program which nurtures and helps centers reach higher levels. L&J and Calvert’s ABC took their centers onto the next step and kept improving their programs and teacher training.

L&J Nursery owner Lessie Howell, who has 16 years of experience in child care, said it was a difficult task to achieve 4-Star status, but she’s glad she did. It took four years for her center with a staff of eight to reach the 4-Star level. “I’m glad to see the children progress,” she said. “I would advise anyone to go with this (QRIS) program,” she said.

Calvert’s ABC owner Jennifer Calvert, a 20-year veteran in the child care business, is also enthusiastic about providing quality child care. She wanted to do the QRIS program from the time she heard of it.

She now wants to go for the top which is 5-Star. Calvert improved her own educational level by earning a bachelor’s degree to improve her expertise. She and her staff have also attended many different workshops pertaining to child care. “I still enjoy working with the kids,” she said. “And we work closely with Aberdeen Schools to assure that these children are ready to enter kindergarten with the right skills.”

As part of the Quality program, Calvert is now mentoring another child care director in the region.

Bailey said GELI is constantly working to upgrade early childhood education for all of the county’s preschoolers, those that attend child care centers and those who are kept in private homes. “The approximate 9 ? hours a day that children are away from home need to be used well,” Bailey said. “There needs to be a learning component. I can say for sure that Monroe County focuses on education and it changes the way of life for people.”

The GELI program is an arm of the Gilmore Foundation. For more information about the Quality Star program or about the area’s child care centers, call Drussel Bailey at 662-257-KIDS.