SIKESTON -- The Child Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston is expected to receive a state grant to expand its services.
Gov. Matt Blunt recently announced 17 recipients of the 2008-2009 Missouri Preschool Project grants which totaled $1.6 million.
Of that, the Sikeston center is expected to receive $130,000 to add an additional classroom for 3- to 5-year-olds, which will increase its licensing by 20 students. Currently, the center is licensed for 36 children and has a registration waiting list.
"We were hoping to get the grant. We had been waiting and were excited to hear the news," said Tracie Smith, director of the Center in Sikeston.
Since the Center opened in February 2006 infants and toddlers have shared one classroom . With the grant funding, Smith said the hope is to have an infant class and a toddler class.
The SEMO-Sikeston center serves children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.
"Everything is hands-on. We don't sit at table," Smith said.
Besides Smith, the staff includes three lead teachers, an assistant teacher, a cook, an administrative assistant and college students working on their degrees.
"Our lead teachers have college degrees," Smith said. "We are also a school lab for SEMO students getting into child development and early childhood education so we have a higher teacher ratio because we have all those extra students in the classroom."
Most of the children who attend the center are from Sikeston, however, it's open to children who live in the surrounding communities, Smith said.
"We still get calls because people don't know we're here. But we are here, and it's for the community. It's a first-come, first-serve opportunity," Smith said.
Two other local preschools awarded grants were TLC Preschool in Chaffee for $90,300 and Kiddie Kountry Preschool and Childcare in Scott City for $95,000. Both of these Missouri-accredited centers will use the funds to expand their services.
"The grants are still subject to approval by our (state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) commissioner," said Sheila Hirsch, supervisor of DESE's Early Childhood Education, adding paperwork was sent to the commissioner's office.
The Missouri Preschool Project, which is overseen by Early Childhood Education, is a competitively awarded program, Hirsch said, adding 55 applications were received.
"Usually the application process is opened in March, and we have a panel that reads the applications, and grants are awarded typically in July," Hirsch said.
Missouri Preschool Project grants are awarded to those centers serving children who are one or two years away from attending kindergarten, Hirsch said. There are specific requirements, she said.
Take for instance the teacher qualifications. Lead teachers must either be certified as a teacher in early childhood education or special education or have a four-year degree in child development, Hirsch said.
"If the center serves more than 10 children, they must have a teacher's assistant, and there are qualifications for that. They must use a specific curriculum. There are three research-based approved curriculums they can choose from," Hirsch said.
There's also a component to the grant where a portion of funds can be used for professional development in a center such as curriculum training, college coursework and for a center to become accredited, Hirsch said.
Since it was established in 1998, the MMP grant program has assisted more than 350 projects. More than 4,600 preschoolers are now being served by programs that receive support through these state grants.
Meanwhile, expansion work for the Sikeston center's classroom will begin soon, Smith said, adding currently, an outdoor nature classroom for the preschool students is being constructed through funding provided by another grant.
Both the outdoor nature classroom and 3- to 5-year-old classroom should be completed by Nov. 1, Smith said. Also staff members will begin the process for the Center to receive accreditation, she said.
"We just hope the Sikeston community knows the Center's not just for (children of SEMO students)," Smith said. "It's for the community."
For more information about SEMO-Sikeston's Child Care Center, call telephone number 481-9724.