La Plata, MD – Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) officially inaugurated its latest facility dedicated to early childhood education last week. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Aug. 24, CCPS staff were accompanied by elected officials, teachers, students, and representatives from the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) to celebrate the opening of the new Early Learning Center in La Plata, located on the CSM La Plata Campus.

Superintendent of Schools Maria V. Navarro, Ed.D., expressed her enthusiasm about the new center. “One of our strategic plan focus areas is expanding prekindergarten access for more families,” she said. “With the opening of this center, we could accept an additional 90 prekindergarten students to our program this school year. CCPS will continue to explore ways in which we can offer early education and support to our youngest learners.”

Credit: College of Southern Maryland/Charles County Public Schools

The Early Learning Center, or ELC, can serve between 80 to 100 students with its five prekindergarten classrooms. The center follows the same prekindergarten program as CCPS elementary schools. Students who complete the program will advance to kindergarten at their zoned school. The first day of school for all CCPS prekindergarten students is Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Last fall, CCPS and CSM joined forces to repurpose the college’s vacant St. Charles Children’s Learning Center space for educational use. Students attending the new center are zoned through their home address, and some classrooms are designed as inclusion classrooms that accommodate both typically developing peers and preschool-aged students with special needs. The school system provides bus transportation and meals for all students at the center.

The establishment of this center is part of a two-year lease agreement signed with CSM in 2022, with an option for extension after June 2026. This collaboration aligns with the expansion of early learning opportunities by CCPS and satisfies the early childhood education requirements of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation.

CSM President Dr. Yolanda Wilson also voiced her support for the initiative. “Access to early learning is so important,” she said. “This Early Learning Center will help develop bright futures for our community’s youngest learners by preparing them for kindergarten – socially, academically, emotionally, and physically. And through the guidance of their Charles County Public Schools teachers, these children will begin to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning as they achieve early educational milestones.”

The facility’s opening marks a step toward fulfilling one of the main pillars of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: the expansion of early childhood education program access. CCPS aims to prepare students for school readiness through this center, contributing to the broader goal of quality education for all.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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