First Steps Primeros Pasos board members, faculty and children joined state and Congressional representatives in Georgetown Aug. 2 to celebrate a $50,000 grant to help build a new school.
Primeros Pasos officials are working to raise $1.3 million to open a new 6,500-square-foot facility on a 1.39-acre property on Savannah Road, just north of Route 9 in Georgetown. With the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the organization has raised about $400,000 so far.
The three buildings on the property, adjacent to Perdue's Georgetown plant, were donated. Construction will connect them and add new bathrooms and a parking lot. The site is much larger than the school's current location, in the basement of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Georgetown, and will provide space for a playground.
Once finished, the new school will accommodate about 68 children, from birth to age five. The school now enrolls 20 children aged 2 to 5. The building is expected to open in fall 2014.
Most of the children attending Primeros Pasos have Hispanic roots. The teachers teach in both English and Spanish and help children develop reading and writing skills.
Many Hispanic children in Georgetown enter kindergarten not being able to speak a word of English, said Primeros Pasos board president Sally Beaumont. These children are immediately behind their peers and require special help to get caught up. It is the goal of Primeros Pasos to provide valuable early-learning experiences for all children so they are ready for kindergarten, she said.
“These kids are going to be ready to roll,” said Sen. Carper, who attended the grant presentation.
Sen. Chris Coons agreed, saying, “One of the reasons I've done so well is because of a preschool in the basement of our church. These kids will have a great foundation.”
On July 31, state education officials awarded Primeros Pasos four stars for early education under Delaware's Stars for Early Success program, which rates early-learning programs to ensure they meet state standards.
Before the recent evaluation, Primeros Pasos had received two stars, Beaumont said.
“We worked so hard and our staff shined,” said Beaumont of the evaluation, which takes several days.
Maria Joseph, school director, showcased the talents of her young students during the grant presentation when students sang and danced for the crowd of nearly 30 people.
Dave Baker, former Sussex County administrator and Primeros Pasos board member, said in addition to the USDA funding, Perdue donated $30,000 with the agreement to donate $60,000 more when it nears time to begin site work at the school property. Past donations included $50,000 from Discover Bank to purchase the property and previous grants from the USDA, Baker said.
To donate to the capital campaign, go to firststepsde.org or send a check to First Steps Primeros Pasos, P.O. Box 1003, Georgetown, DE 19947.