State lawmakers and Pre-K advocates tour W.C. Handy Early Childhood Development Center

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FLORENCE, Ala. - The Office of School Readiness defines school readiness as, "a condition whereby children enter school with an enthusiasm for learning." That's made evident by the children at Florence City Schools' W.C. Handy Early Childhood Development Center.

The school opened as an early learning center in August. It houses 12 Alabama First-Class Pre-K classrooms for four-year-olds as well as one classroom each for three and five-year-olds. There are also services for preschool-aged children with special needs.

Before the center opened, Pre-K classes were spread out across the district. Classes are now combined under one roof along with six additional classes.

State lawmakers along with Pre-K advocates attended a tour of the school organized by the Alabama School Readiness Alliance to see the progress in its inaugural year.

"The low student to teacher ratio, the aides being available, the programs and the interaction between the students and the teachers I saw was very impressive. It is the type of nurturing at the young age they need and they are getting here," said Alabama Senator Tim Melson.

Principal Michael South spoke on why the center is important and how it's impacting the children of Florence.

"Research shows us that since the brain develops so quickly up to age 5 that we need to take advantage of that time," said the principal. "Children are involved in activities, it's not just sitting and writing but they're actually involved in hands-on activities. It's building a community because they're learning how to work together."

The impact is evident. Senator Melson says that 75% of preschool-aged children in Lauderdale County are enrolled in a Pre-K program.

Only a handful of Alabama school systems have an early childhood development center but the Alabama School Readiness Alliance is pushing for every child to have access to that education.

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