According to the Early Development Instrument (EDI), an internationally recognized tool for measuring early child development, 40 per cent of Golden’s students are entering kindergarden in a state of vulnerability, below the provincial average and well below Revelstoke, the province-wide leader with just seven per cent vulnerability. For Golden, that means that in a classroom of 20 students, eight are entering school behind where they should be.
That figure is all the more troubling given that new studies are now showing that 90 per cent of a human brain is developed by age six.
“A massive opportunity exists in those early years to develop these children in the way that they deserve to be developed, but we’re missing the boat,” said Joanne McCullough, the coordinator of the Early Learning and Care Stakeholder Action Group (ELCSAG).
ELCSAG is spearheading a campaign to create an Early Learning and Care Hub as an extension of Alexander Park Elementary School. The proposed facility would give families easy access to many services for young children and would supplement what is already available through licensed family daycares.
“That building will be there forever and it will change the lives of generations of people,” said McCullough.
McCullough and ELCSAG have partnered with the College of the Rockies, the Rocky Mountain School District and recently the Rotary Club of Golden in an effort to make this project a reality.
The extension has been approved by the school district and the only thing left to do before construction can begin is to come up with the necessary funding.
The proposed facility comes with a price tag of $600,000. Thanks to private donations (including an upcoming wedding in town that has the couple accepting donations for the project rather than gifts) as well as donations from Rotary and Columbia Basin Trust, ELCSAG has raised $47,000 so far. Now, McCullough is hoping that the province will step up and help them with funding. Mayor Christina Benty is set to present a proposal to the provincial government at the UBCM meetings scheduled for this week.
“There has been a significant effort in this community to see this project move forward to meet an identified community need,” said Mayor Benty.
“An Early Learning and Care [Hub] would support early childhood development in a positive way and assist to improve the EDI scores of children entering Kindergarten.”
At the end of the day, for McCullough it’s all about educating the children.
“It’s easier to build strong children than to fix broken people.”