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FCPS Launches Bold Campaign Focusing on Early Childhood Education

Leaders from Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) and local champions of early childhood education met at the Family Care Center to announce a hefty initiative to improve kindergarten readiness for Lexington’s youngest learners. Superintendent Demetrus Liggins made the case for this renewed focus during the Jan. 12 news conference, referencing an eye-opening statistic:

  • In the 2021-22 school year, kindergarten readiness scores here fell to their lowest levels (42%) since we first tracked the scores in 2013-14. These readiness-to-learn standards are based on children’s adaptive, cognitive, motor, communication, and social-emotional skills.

With support from the Fayette County Board of Education, $10 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds will be invested to expand early childhood efforts -- allowing initiatives to get within easy reach of families and caregivers, especially those in underserved communities. A big part of the initiative will feature two preschool buses functioning as mobile classrooms, able to hit the road to meet the needs of any neighborhood.

Another integral part, announced by Fayette Education Foundation Executive Director Carrie Boling, will be the arrival of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the Lexington community. This book gifting program mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age 5, no matter their family’s income.

Last year, state legislators passed Senate Bill 164, which provided funding for 50% of the cost of bringing Imagination Library to children in Kentucky. Parton and community partners fund the other 50 percent. “Until today, Fayette County was one of only five counties in Kentucky with no coverage. We are thrilled to announce registration is officially open for our littlest learners,” Boling said. She credited individuals and organizations such as Blue Grass Community Foundation and the Junior League of Lexington for helping the Fayette Education Foundation reach over 19,000 eligible children in Lexington. Families can also register online or at any Lexington Public Library.

Mayor Linda Gorton joined Liggins in underlining the importance of strong early learning experiences when it comes to academic success, and success later in life. “Our quality of education has a direct connection to the strength of our city, the strength of Lexington,” she said. “An educated community means an educated workforce, and having an educated workforce means more people will have good-paying jobs and live happy, productive lives. That’s why it is so important that we have a strong foundation in education beginning at birth.”

Liggins also touched on the science. “Brain education research tells us that from birth to 5 years old, a child’s brain develops more than any other time in their lifetime. And in fact, by the time they’re 5 years old, 90 percent of their brain development has occurred, and so early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in life,” he said, “And the quality of the child’s experiences in those five pivotal years of life, both positively and negatively, help shape the brain for the remainder of their lives, and most definitely throughout their educational experience.”

Liggins announced the district’s goal of attaining 100% kindergarten readiness levels by the 2027-28 school year, bolstered by this campaign, which he said will also include more family outreach and engagement efforts, expanding access to pre-kindergarten, and creating and distributing growth and development guides to caregivers, as well as online and app-based resources.

The early childhood education efforts will be executed from within the school district’s existing program, First 5 Lex, which has shared its “Read, Talk, Play” message with families and caregivers since 2017. This new campaign will allow the message to go further, and to meet families where they are, whether at home, in their doctor’s office, at the library, or at an older sibling’s school, and within their native language.

The initiative kicks off with a series of appearances and family-friendly, free events featuring performer and children’s author John Archambault, creator of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” You can find the details here:

Events Flyer (English)

Events Flyer (Spanish)

Revised Jan. 13; posted Jan. 12, 2023