October 22, 2020

Heard County School System announces launch of ‘Baby Braves Academy’ in 2021

(Franklin, GA) — In any community where poverty exists in a sizable portion of the population, an equally large percentage of students will begin school missing critical academic and social skills.

To counteract this reality and to make sure ALL Heard County students have an opportunity to succeed, the Heard County School System along with the Heard County Community Partnership began the Baby Braves Initiative in 2016.

The goals of the Baby Braves program were clear: Identify Heard County children ages zero to three and provide their families with the resources and training required to raise healthy, cognitively developed children who would be on equal footing as all other children.

By October 2017, the Heard County School System had identified 162 children who were zero to three in age.

During this period, the Baby Braves committee began holding “class reunions,” making it possible for children of the same age to meet and socialize, and for parents to receive critical information about child health and development.

Despite the growth of and the increased participation in Baby Braves over the past several years, Heard County School Superintendent Rodney Kay believed that much more needed to be done.

“We were trying to transform the level of success for all our students,” stated Kay. “So making a small difference was good, but not good enough for what we were trying to accomplish.”

To this end, Kay turned to an outside entity that could bring more resources and personnel to help take the Baby Braves program to another level. That entity was Head Start.

Over the past five years, Head Start has been providing funds and services to PreK students at Heard County Elementary School.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Heard County negotiated with Head Start for the opening of two Preschool classrooms (3-year-olds) at Heard County Elementary School. This trial run proved to be very successful at meeting the initial goals of the Baby Braves.

“Our PreK teachers can really tell a difference between those students who were in the 3-year-old classrooms last year and most of those who were not,” claimed HCES Principal Paul Mixon. “These students returned to us this year ready to learn and with a strong academic base.”

After witnessing this success, the Heard County School System negotiated with new Head Start grant recipient CAFI (Community Action for Improvement) to open three Preschool classrooms and one Early Head Start (under three years of age) classroom at HCES.

The hope from this partnership between Heard County and Head Start, is to open up a total of six classrooms next year (two Early Head Start and four PreSchool).

To aid in the expansion of Head Start on the HCES campus, a portion of the school will be designated as the Baby Braves Academy going into the 2021-2022 school year.

Additionally, a large grassy area on the bus entrance side of the HCES facility will be fenced in and two new playgrounds (one for children ages three and four and another for younger children) will be constructed inside the fenced area.

Each Head Start classroom has a teacher and assistant, plus support staff when needed.

The teachers use Creative Curriculum, which addresses all the domains of child development.

They additionally conduct health and developmental screenings, and provide early interventions if necessary. This includes having a pediatrician available for immunizations, diagnosis, and treatment.

When needed, Head Start works with families on family goal setting to enhance academic success. They also link families to needed resources, such as child support recovery, Babies Can’t Wait, parent career development, and other family supports.

By continuing the Baby Braves Initiative and continuing to expand the partnership with Head Start, the Heard County School System hopes to make sure that ALL Heard County students have the same opportunities at being successful and ultimately realizing the American Dream.

“If we want every Heard County High School graduate to find success after graduation through continued education in college or technical school, enlisting in a branch of the military, or finding meaningful and lucrative employment, then we have to catch any academic or developmental problems as early as possible,” added Kay. “The Baby Braves program is our best chance to make this a reality.”

For updates and information on the Baby Braves program visit Facebook.com/BabyBraves.

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