A look at the proposed Children’s Learning Center

Head Start is looking for a good woman, or man, as the case may be.

The Franklin County Head Start program, which provides early childhood education for children ages 3 to 4, has been operating in the Sixth Street recreation center, but is preparing to move to newly renovated space set aside for a Children’s Learning Center at the Van Johnson complex

The program, which serves about 17 students, and operates from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, is overseen by the Capital Area Community Action Agency, headed by Tim Center.

"Franklin County was fortunate to save the Head Start program three years ago when staffing and facility concerns looked like the program might have to shut down," he said. "With the help and support of the Bring Me A Book program and several community leaders, the program was saved."

Center said Head Start now has a teacher vacancy. "Early childhood education staff requires minimal training and certifications, and Community Action can help a job prospect get the certifications needed to help fill the position," Center said. " It is important that the childcare center maintain good teacher to student ratios of 2 teachers to 17 students."

Center said the teacher would supervise a teacher assistant assigned to the class, and implement age-appropriate curriculum and performance standards, while conducting ongoing observations and assessments, and maintaining anecdotal records for children.

The candidate must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, or a bachelor’s or advanced degree in any subject with coursework equivalent to a major related to early childhood education and two years of work experience in teaching preschool-age children. Center said an associates degree in early childhood education may be considered with at least four years of classroom teaching experience.

If you are interested in becoming a Head Start teacher, you can apply in person at the Head Start Center in the 6th Street Recreation Center at 222 6th Street. Or call Rebecca Batson-Byrd, Franklin Head Start Center director, at 653-1155.

Meanwhile, work continues on the proposed Children’s Learning Center at Wing A of the city complex, thanks to the efforts of the Early Education Task Force.

The task force’s president, Michaelin Watts, said the wing will also house Bring Me A Book Franklin and other early learning programs. A successful fund raiser at Holy Family in December 2017 and with the generosity of Franklin County residents raised $60,000, said Watts.

Creighton Brown is project manager of the wing’s renovation, and with other leading volunteers - Pete Olson, Karen Kessel, Dave Watts , Mason Bean , Mike Siebert, Michelle Fowler , Andrew Butler, Mark Little and Derrick Lolley - have carried out a number of necessary renovations.

"The class rooms were filled with discarded equipment, furniture and debris that had to be removed. In order to make four classrooms available, it was necessary to support the move of the "then" occupants to other spaces in the complex," she said.

The task force provided volunteer labor and funds to work "a miraculous conversion of a defunct heating and air conditioning room into a new police substation," Watts said. Brown and his crew removed the air/heat equipment and raised concrete pad with sledge hammers and blow torches.

Contractor Glen Coxwell was hired to lower the ceiling using some recycled city ceiling framework. Former residents Mike Siebert and Michelle Fowler provided the painting and the Task Force provided the funds for carpet, electric, air conditioning/heating and internet.

"Significant work has been done on the four classrooms. Heat and air split units have been installed and egress doors and new locks have been fabricated and are ready for installation by Coxwell," Watts said. "Plumbing for intake water for classroom sinks and drainage pipes have been installed by Varner plumbing.

In June 2019, a cadre of 26 volunteers showed up for a work day with a focus on removing debris and unusable furniture, cleaning, removing black boards and preparing walls for painting. The Watts’ granddaughter, Louise Belliot drove from Jacksonville after working the night before to be there early Saturday to help in the effort.

Bring Me A Book Franklin secured permission from the city and the school board to use land for protected playgrounds and parking. In November the inmates will be moving the chain link fence to define the area for its future use.

"An urgent need for the Children’s Learning Center is the provision of a fire safety and alarm system as there is no current operating fire system in the Johnson Complex," Watts said.

"The Task Force continues to be very grateful for the donations provided by local residents at the 2017 fund raiser and is being very frugal with the use of those funds, aided immensely by the volunteer effort," she said.