During an extended day activity, preschool children at Fairsite’s Readiness Center make tortillas, after which each child received a free book.

Over the next two years, the Galt Join Union Elementary School District will receive close to $1 million to bolster pre-K English learning students and their families in learning, literacy and language with the Growing Strong Learners Grant. All pre-K Galt students will have access to resources through this grant.

For two years, the district received a $100,000 grant through the Central Valley Foundation, now called the McClatchy Foundation, to begin their work at Fairsite’s Readiness Center with a Bright Futures Learning Center, which includes a “maker space” for supplemental math, technology, art and engineering.

Superintendent Karen Schauer said the previous grant was crucial to providing students and families with computers, and also training to be partners in education with their children’s teachers.

Over the next two years, the Readiness Center will receive a total of $982,620 from the foundation. The center is also funded by First 5 Sacramento with $300,000 per year and the Migrant Educational Foundation.

“We started last year before there was a pandemic,” Schauer said. “Parents have always been important to education, but the partnerships have become more important through this pandemic. This grant will allow us to continue this work.”

Director of Education Services Donna Mayo-Whitlock, who was responsible for obtaining the grant, said the district has had a long relationship with the McClatchy Foundation, which began eight years ago with an elementary grant to help English learners. When the pandemic hit, the foundation also funded money for computers and hot spots.

“We are very excited to receive this grant,” Mayo-Whitlock said. “The Fairsite Readiness Center doesn’t get any funding from the district’s general funds. It is completely dependent on grant funding.”

Not only will the Readiness Center continue training teachers and parents to work together and fund the pre-K Bright Futures Learning Center, but the district will be able to “set the stage” for a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program where both English learners and Spanish learners can receive instruction completely in Spanish in pre-K and kindergarten, and English will be integrated more through the consecutive years.

The district plans a feasibility study to find out how many families and teachers would be open to a DLI program. According to Mayo-Whitlock, immersing children in a language at an early age is very important.

“Children learn a language best before the age of eight,” Mayo-Whitlock said.

The district will also be able to continue the Home Visiting Program for families of children age birth to three years. Parents of pre-K students also have the opportunity to take English lessons twice a week while their child is in class.

“When we visit, we work with the parents on developing activities to get their children ready for school,” Mayo-Whitlock said. “Whether in Spanish or English, reading to your children is the most important thing you can do.”

The district plans to roll out the Dual Language Immersion program sometime in the next year for pre-K and in 2022 for kindergarten students, should the stakeholders be open to the program.