TULSA – Tulsa Educare, Inc. (TEI), Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) celebrated the start of construction on the city’s third Educare site during a ceremony in early December. Opening of the third school will make Tulsa the only city in the nation with three Educares – and Oklahoma the only state in nation with four.
The new Tulsa site will open in August 2012. The 38,000-square-foot school will have 16 classrooms and meeting and training facilities.
The new school will also have a geothermal system providing efficient heating and cooling.
“Early childhood education is an important part of efforts to develop the skills students need to become successful in life,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who attended the December 6 ground-breaking. “Oklahoma is a leader in early childhood education, and it is exciting that this work can be continued through the opening of a new center where even more children can learn their fundamentals.”
Tulsa Educare, Inc. was created to provide high-quality early childhood education and care to low-income families living in Tulsa and currently serves 364 children in two state-of-the-art community schools, providing a range of educational and family engagement opportunities for parents and children 6 weeks through 5 years of age.
“Our state is a leader in early education as a result of outstanding organizations like Educare,” said Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki.
An Educare program is also working in the state’s capital city. Educare of Oklahoma City (500 S.E. Grand Boulevard) opened in 2009, and operates adjacent to the new Cesar Chavez Elementary School, one of the new-site “products” of the historic MAPS for enacted by voter referenda in 2001.
Oklahoma City’s site serves 200 children and their families. Partnerships at the city site includes Inasmuch Foundation, Sunbeam Family Services, Community Action Agency of Oklahoma and Canadian Counties, the public school system and United Way.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and local public school Superintendent Keith Ballard were on-hand for the recent ground-breaking celebration. TPS is taking the lead for the work on the grounds of Nathan Hale High School, Whitney Middle School and MacArthur Elementary.
“Tulsa Public Schools is dedicated to reaching children very early in age to tap into their full potential and better prepare them for adulthood,” said Ballard. “TPS is proud to partner with Educare to provide children with a high-quality education, including year-round programming and bachelor-degreed teachers who utilize evidence-based curriculum to ensure school readiness.”
TEI is part of a national network of agencies attempting to make a difference in the lives of very young, at-risk children and families through strong public-private partnerships. Educare is operational in Arizona, Maine, Chicago, the District of Columbia, Denver, Kansas City, Miami-Dade County (Florida), Milwaukee, Omaha, Seattle and West DuPage. Schools are in development in New Orleans, Lincoln (Nebraska), Baltimore, the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Newark.
Kaiser’s foundation is the lead funder of Tulsa’s Educare I and II, and is jointly funding Educare III with TPS. “We are proud to partner with TPS and Tulsa Educare to provide children in the Tulsa community with the highest quality of education and the best opportunity for success in life,” said Ken Levit, executive director of GKFF. “Educare helps support GKFF’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education.”
Architect and construction firms involved in the project include Kinslow, Keith & Todd, Inc., RDG Planning, Crossland Construction Company, Inc. and Stonebridge Group.
Tulsa Educare, Inc. (TEI) is a not-for-profit organization created through a partnership with TPS, Kaiser’s foundation, Family and Children’s Services, Tulsa Community Foundation, Community Action Project, the University of Oklahoma and the Bounce Learning Network.
At Kendall-Whittier (one of the first two Educare facilities in Tulsa) some 200 children and their families are served. This program (2511 East 5th Place) includes an on-site health clinic run in cooperation with OU Physicians. Early childhood educators at the Kendall-Whittier site (which is part of the Tulsa public school system) work in partnership with the adjacent Union school district. The site opened in August 2006.
Levit told CapitolBeatOK that eventually the clinic might be available to the economically challenged families and the surrounding community even outside of pre-school hours.
That site was bustling this past week, with space devoted to meetings for family advocates from Educare sites across the U.S.
They came to Oklahoma for networking and training.
Kendall-Whittier provides a hint of future partnerships that might evolve. It operates in close cooperation with Early Head Start and other partners. The operation is immediately adjacent to the public elementary school of the same name. The population is predominantly but not exclusively Latino or Hispanic, staff told CapitolBeatOK.
Adjacent to Hawthorne public school in Tulsa’s Educare II. With partnerships and alliances similar to Kendall-Whittier, the population served is predominantly but not exclusively African-American. Some 164 children and families are served at the facility, which opened in February 2010.
For more information about Tulsa Educare, Inc., visit www.tulsaeducare.org. GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information, visit www.gkff.org
Note: Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. www.CapitolBeatOK.com