When Moody Early Childhood Center opened in late August 2016, it represented a unique partnership between a private nonprofit infant and toddler education program and a public full-day preschool program operated by a local school district.

The idea behind the center was to create a continuum of education for Galveston’s youngest learners, 6 weeks through prekindergarten, and to engage, empower and educate parents and adult caregivers as part of that continuum. The center was located in an under-utilized former elementary school.

Undergirding this experimental public-private early education partnership was a third partner — Galveston and Texas philanthropy.

The infant and toddler program was established in response to a 2012 study commissioned by Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance that documented the urgent need for high quality, financially accessible early education opportunities for Galveston’s littlest citizens.

Children’s brains develop rapidly in the first few years of life, at a rate of about 1 million neurons per second (and this isn’t a typo), establishing the foundation for both behavior and learning for a lifetime.

Several years before the center opened, Galveston Independent School District established a full-day prekindergarten program, funded in part by local tax dollars. More than 70 percent of district students qualify for the federal government’s free/reduced cost lunch program, a measure of the economic circumstances of island families whose children are enrolled in public school.

Research studies have documented that by the time a child living in a low-income household is 3 years old, that child has heard 30 million (this isn’t a typo) fewer words than a middle-income child of the same age. This isn’t a statement about the love that surrounds that child, it’s simply a statement of fact … 30 million fewer words.

The school district’s leadership understood that a strong beginning to a child’s education is absolutely critical to the success of that education.

The trustees and staff of private foundations are stewards of philanthropic resources, who take seriously their obligation to invest those resources wisely. Studies have documented that a child who has received a high quality prekindergarten education is more successful in school, more likely to graduate high school on time, and more likely to enroll in college or other post-secondary education than his or her peer who doesn’t have that advantage.

Led by The Moody Foundation, Galveston philanthropy responded robustly to requests for support of the Moody Early Childhood Center-Galveston ISD partnership. Trustees and staff of those institutions understood that one of their best opportunities to impact the trajectory of a Galveston child’s life was in that child’s first five years.

In July 2018, Texas Education Agency recognized the Galveston experiment and the early success of a community that was focusing human and financial resources on its youngest citizens by designating Moody Early Childhood Center the first “in district” charter school for infants, toddlers and PreK students in the State of Texas.

Enrollment in the center’s PreK3 program is open to every child on the island who is 3 years old by Sept. 1. For information on enrollment, contact Linda Garcia, 409-761-6930 or linda@moodychildhooodcenter.org.

Betty Massey is president of the board of directors of Moody Early Childhood Center.

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