Kris Griffor, assistant superintendent of elementary education, left, chats with early childhood students who were gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Early Childhood Center March 27 next to the Troy College and Career High School, near Livernois and Square Lake roads.

Kris Griffor, assistant superintendent of elementary education, left, chats with early childhood students who were gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Early Childhood Center March 27 next to the Troy College and Career High School, near Livernois and Square Lake roads.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Experts tout early childhood programs for public schools

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 12, 2018

 After 15 years of early childhood education programming, the Troy School District built a dedicated facility to serve the needs of pre-kindergarten students to coordinate with their elementary curriculum.

After 15 years of early childhood education programming, the Troy School District built a dedicated facility to serve the needs of pre-kindergarten students to coordinate with their elementary curriculum.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Troy School District Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Hammond has fun with 4-year-olds who were gathered for the groundbreaking.

Troy School District Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Hammond has fun with 4-year-olds who were gathered for the groundbreaking.

File photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — Across metro Detroit, child care options available to public school families are getting some major upgrades with transitional pre-kindergarten instruction at various levels in one comprehensive facility — and, in some cases, year-round schedules.

That sound you just heard was working parents jumping for joy. 

Not only do many of these emerging facilities offer child care throughout the summer and holiday breaks, when parents are working but school isn’t in session, but the instructional element gives beginning students an early edge, according to Kristine Griffor, assistant superintendent of elementary education for the Troy School District.

“Our superintendent, Dr. Rich Machesky, had tasked us with finding out what the best schools in the world do, and this was part of that outcome,” Griffor said of the Troy School District’s brand-new Early Childhood Center. “Literacy experiences early on really set them up for success throughout their academic career. Now more than ever, it’s important to have those early skills both socially and in terms of literacy.”

The Troy center started construction back in March, when the district devoted $23 million to a 26-classroom building that centralizes the district’s long-running early childhood programming for students ages 3-5 in one building. Before, programs were spread between the district’s other schools.

“We’ve had programmings running in the district for the last 15 years, with more than 100 students on waiting lists at a time. Enrollment is increasing as Troy keeps growing, and it puts a strain on our buildings. We needed an alternate space to target those students and their needs,” Griffor said.

In 2012, Van Dyke Public Schools launched its Kennedy Early Childhood Center, which houses the Our World of Fours, Head Start, Early Head Start and parent/child play group preschool programs. 

“We felt it was important for all our families to have an early childhood center,” Kennedy Early Childhood Center Director Melissa Pluszczynski said when the facility opened. “I think we have to make sure (students) are ready when they hit kindergarten and understand how the classrooms work.”

There have been numerous studies to suggest focused early childhood education gives learners an advantage in the kindergarten classroom and beyond, including not only higher achievement in elementary and high school, but also measurable benefits for cognitive development and even a reduction in crime tendencies as an adult, according to the National Education Association.

But Griffor said roughly 30 percent of kindergartners in Troy School District head to class without the basic skills they need to learn.

“Sometimes it’s finances,” she said, explaining that Troy’s early childhood programming is tuition based, since the state of Michigan doesn’t fund preschool for public school participants. “Sometimes it’s because a family is moving from another place; others have a barrier with the language. We want to make sure we have this experience available for all of our students.”