OUR OPINION: TPSD trustees make commitment to pre-k

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Tupelo Public School board’s decision to make a major investment in additional classrooms and other improvements at the Early Childhood Education Center for four-year-olds in the district affirms the trustees’, teachers’ and administration’s commitment to pre-K education, the top-tier public school issue statewide.
Trustees at the regular monthly meeting Tuesday voted to invest $4.4 million in low-interest bonds originating with the federal stimulus program’s Qualified School Construction Bonds provision in Mississippi.
Part of the bond fund will be used to build up to 10 new classrooms at the center on North Green Street, with a goal of eventually nearly matching the city school district’s enrollment of 600 kindergarten students, all housed in on-campus elementary school classrooms. Each new classroom at ECEC would support 20 additional students.
The eventual provision of enough classrooms at the ECEC for every eligible child within the district would enhance its attractiveness for young parents who want to know that there is a facility where quality pre-school is available.
Financial support for the ECEC’s current enrollment comes from federal “title” funds – money available under various programs.
One of the long-term goals accompanying the new construction will be finding stable sources of funding for the center. One of the options might be tuition, but that is not written in stone.
Mississippi is the only state in the South without some kind of statewide state-funded pre-kindergarten program, the intellectually rich window of opportunity in which children’s brains, adequately nurtured, absorb knowledge like a sponge.
The decision to prepare for a larger pre-K enrollment is both optimistic and a statement of commitment for any funding source from which the district could derive funds. The ideal, of course, would be full statewide funding, a scenario that is politically distant but possible given enough legislative and executive leadership will.
Other funds from the bond issue will enhance the existing Tupelo High School baseball field, adjacent the campus of Tupelo Middle school. The field will undergo extensive renovations and an expansion of seating.
In addition, the cafeteria at the 2,200-student Tupelo High School will be expanded to handle larger student volume, with outdoor seating added, too. In addition, minor renovations will be undertaken at Carver Elementary.
School advancement work never ends, and the trustees have chosen an economically prudent method.