The town of Windham, with its population of 22,857, is mostly rural but anchored by the small city of Willimantic where nearly 70% of this culturally diverse population resides. The community has a diverse mix of cultures with 34% of the population being Hispanic, Black, or Asian and 28% speaking something other than English at home. Four elementary schools, a middle school, high school, and several nearby colleges and universities, meet the needs of the school aged children and a comprehensive early childcare system helps to prepare children for learning. When registering for kindergarten, over 73% of the students are reported to have had some sort of early childhood educational experience.
Over the years, an active School Readiness Council has worked collaboratively to address the social, emotional, and educational needs of young children. Over the next four years, Windham Children First will continue its emphasis on building and supporting parent/school/community partnerships that encourage parent engagement in all aspects of education from early childhood on. This year, in addition to our ongoing work with the public schools to improve the communication between teachers and parents, we will begin an initiative to establish a one-stop system for preschool registration where parents can more easily learn about existing educational opportunities. In an effort to better reach Spanish speaking parents with information about elementary school policies and procedures, we will be supporting efforts to train a group of parents to reach out and support other parents in their own communities. Over the next couple of years, we will continue our support for the Windham Parent Network and their community building and advocacy activities. We will also work to communicate the importance of early childhood education to the public in the hopes of winning public support for early education initiatives.
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