SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Greeted by bundles of books at their tables, educators, legislators, and parents met for the second annual Shelby County Pre-K Summit.
The summit comes two years into the Federal Preschool Development Grant , which provides $33 million over four years meant to increase pre-k enrollment in the Shelby County, Achievement, Bartlett and Millington School Districts.
Dezannae Moore's son DeyLan attended pre-school, and she said it was vital for her 7-year-old's growth in and out of the classroom.
"He came out of his shell," Moore said. "He started wanting to read more."
The gr ant helped add 27 pre-k classrooms in the 2015-16 school year. Twelve were added in 2016-17, with six more slated for next year.
This means 7,000 students like DeyLan, whose parents could not afford to send them to preschool without that money, can now attend.
These students' academic scores have also risen. The program could be short-lived though if a replacement is not found for the gr ant money, which runs out at the conclusion of 2018-19 school year.
"If we don't have those children in those programs, then they will not be kindergarten ready," said Early Childhood Director Daphanie Swift. "And we will not see the increase in third-grade reading scores that we all need in our community."