Early Learning Collaborative: 1,200 HPSD students to benefit from $2.1M grant

By STAFF REPORTS,

The Hattiesburg Public School District has been awarded $2.1 million in grant funding from the Mississippi Department of Education’s Early Learning Collaborative.

The funding was announced during a news conference Jan.7 at the district’s Harper-Wallin Family Education Center on Forrest Street. 

Hattiesburg Public School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams was joined by House District 102 Representative Missy McGee, Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, HPSD Federal Programs Director Carrie Hornsby, HPSD Board of Trustees, House District 103 Representative Percy Watson, House District 87 Representative Chris Johnson and early education partners. 

During the 2018 legislative session for Mississippi, both the House and Senate approved additional funding for early childhood education by way of MDE’s Early Learning Collaborative. Without an increase since 2016, the number of school districts funded by the grant program was capped at 14.

 “With my legislative colleagues and because of a lot of support, I am proud to announce that Hattiesburg is now one of five new districts approved for the additional funding in the amount of $2.1 million – $700,000 across the three-year grant cycle,” McGee said. “The collaborative spirit of this grant lends a hand to the understanding that our children will only succeed with the help of everyone working together, and we are very proud to be a part of that.”

 With the increase in funding, MDE opened a new round of applications with the intent to enroll new districts. Districts that boasted a collaborative program across a variety of early childhood education partners were encouraged to apply. Hattiesburg is now one of 19 school districts throughout Mississippi funded by the program.

 Hornsby said her team began working on the application in August 2018 with the creation of the Hattiesburg Early Learning Collaborative Council. Purposefully, they helped with guidance and feedback regarding the early childhood education needs of Hattiesburg’s children.

 The council included representatives from The University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University, Families First, PRVO Headstart, Excel by 5, United Way of Southeast Mississippi, private childcare centers and retired early childhood educators.

 “We are thrilled to be a recipient of the grant and the resources it will provide to the children of Hattiesburg,” Hornsby said. “Now, we immediately prepare for the program’s implementation in August.”

 This funding will directly impact 329 children (per year in the grant cycle of 3) across the equivalent of 18 classrooms at Hattiesburg Public Schools, PRVO Headstart and additional private Pre-K providers.