A brand new preschool will be opening next year in one of Buffalo's poorest neighborhoods. WBFO Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley says the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood has announced that M&T Bank will be investing $1.6 million to create a second Children's Academy in the University District.
“And this is a good thing, one of the many that are good about the east side,” State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo declared.
Peoples-Stokes appeared at the announcement outside a building at Bailey and East Delavan Avenues. It is operated by Gerard Place at the former St. Gerard Parish. Peoples-Stokes stressed the importance of bringing early childhood education to improvised neighborhoods.
“The earlier children are educated, the better they are going to be in their entire life, so the services that are going to be provided here will not only transform the lives of the women and children in this immediate neighborhood, but transform the lives of the entire community,” Peoples-Stokes said.
Gerard Place will allow the first floor of a former parish recreation hall to be transformed into a preschool. The first Children's Academy, also located on Bailey Avenue, was opened by Buffalo Promise and M&T in 2013.
“Gone are the days where you show up in kindergarten and you just learn your ABCs. At that point, you better know it. You better know your numbers,” said Glenn Jackson, COO of Buffalo Promise.
Jackson told WBFO News they want to provide access to pre-k for low-income families.
“What we are finding is by the time you’re five years old, and if you don’t already have a grasp on those things, there’s a gap. And what we all know in education is that once there is a gap, it is very hard to close it, so what we are trying to do is attack the problem earlier—get to it before there can be a gap,” Jackson explained.
Gerard Place already provides homeless and those in need with wrap around services. Sister Concetta DeFelce is a Gerard Place board member.
“We want to be able to serve the whole family. We’re family oriented. That’s important. We don’t want to just treat the child, we want to be with the parents, do what we can,” Sister DeFelce remarked.
The new school will house 100 preschoolers free of charge. Construction work to transform the building for the pre-k program begins shortly. The school is expected to open early next year.