Beatrice Public Schools is about to have a new program available for local children age 0-3, and their families. During a school board meeting Monday evening, Beatrice Community Preschool Director Missy Timmerman gave details about the Sixpence Early Learning Fund grant, which was given to Beatrice and 11 other communities on Sept. 1.
Timmerman said the program's name comes from the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.”
Funding for the program is a combination of private and public money. The funding formula is every dollar of private contribution is matched by two dollars from the public sector, which is all again matched by the public school. She explained that the funding matched by the schools can be from actions they’re already providing, meaning that the Sixpence program will not cost the district any money to implement.
Sixpence is supposed to provide opportunities to kids that are most at-risk, so Timmerman said they’re focusing on teen moms, children with English as a second language, and families in poverty. She said the district is partnering with the Beatrice Police Department, the Educational Service Unit, Beatrice Head Start, Beatrice Community Hospital’s Women’s and Children’s Clinic, and Blue Valley Community Action, groups she noted the district already has great connections with.
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“We’re taking those and being able to support families that maybe don’t have children that have special education needs,” Timmerman said. “Before, we were able to serve those children that have special education needs with a home visitor, but now it’s any child that has those key factors that we can go into the home and serve.”
Timmerman said Sixpence can be center-based or home-based, and that they’ve chosen home-based to start out because they don’t yet have a location for the center-based offering. She said the home visitor will be Karren Husa, who will be tasked with visiting 12-15 families, starting Dec. 1.
“Karren will go with a curriculum to homes to help families, just to learn how to start a schedule, how to budget, how to bathe your child, how to cook meals,” Timmerman said. “Those skills that maybe they’re doing the best they can, they love their children, but this is just going to give them that next step. She has to spend 180 minutes per month with each family, and then we have a family event every month with that. The family events are meant to educate. So maybe when it gets close to winter, having Josh the Otter come down and talk about water safety, having some cooking lessons, doing the motor lab over at the preschool, coming in and learning how to develop large-motor and getting the kids to crawl or walk, or basic potty training. Things like that that will help families continue to grow and learn.”
Timmerman said there is also money for emergency needs, like helping get a family’s electricity turned on, but the goal is to help point them to other resources in the area if they need further assistance. She said several families have already shown interest in joining the program, and that people can call the preschool to apply.
“Sixpence has been a huge target of mine for our program, and it’s just one more step to continue to grow our early childhood department in Beatrice. So super pumped, super excited…We’re going to target our early moms first and get them in services and get them help, because we know we have some here in Beatrice,” Timmerman said.
In the future, Timmerman said her goal is to add two more home visitors before moving from home-based to center-based learning.
“It takes someone who is committed to early childhood education and has a passion for it,” BPS Superintendent Jason Alexander said. “We’re fortunate to have someone in our district that is very committed to that, was very forward-thinking in terms of wanting to be aggressive and go after this funding to help families in our district. So Missy, thank you for being that person in our community, and being aggressive and willing to do what it takes to operate Sixpence. It is truly a very exciting program to have in our community.”
Sixpence now funds 43 grantees throughout the state. The other recent recipients of the Sixpence grant include O'Neill Public Schools, North Platte Public Schools, Bancroft-Rosalie Community Schools, Walthill Public School, Red Cloud Community Schools, Kearney Public Schools, Weeping Water Public Schools, Conestoga Public Schools, South Sioux City Public Schools and Blair Community Schools.
The new grants were made possible through a funding increase for Sixpence proposed in LB342 by Senator John Stinner of Gering, Appropriations Committee chair. The proposal was subsequently incorporated into the state's mainline budget bill, allocating an additional $2.5 million per year to Sixpence for the next two years.
“The pandemic has put enormous pressure on our state’s early childhood system,” Stinner said. “In turn, that puts enormous pressure on the families who are responsible for raising the next generation of Nebraskans. Sixpence offsets some of those pressures by making quality child care and family engagement services more available to help parents guide the early development of their youngest kids.”
More information about the program can be found at SingaSongofSixpence.org.