Families and Schools Together (F.A.S.t.)
The United Way continued the three year $225,000 Community Innovation Zone grant through Pennsylvania’s Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge to help close the achievement gap and improve student outcomes for disadvantaged children from birth through 3rd grade through a unique community collaboration led by the United Way, McNichols Plaza and Kennedy Elementary Schools in Scranton and Freckles & Frills Early Learning Center. A high priority was placed on professional development as five principals and teachers attended the Improving School Performance Conference in Pittsburgh while eight collaborative members attended the P3 Governor’s Institute in Harrisburg. We also hosted two professional development trainings for 78 district/community preschool teachers.
Last year, the F.A.S.T. Student Academies in McNichols Plaza and Kennedy Elementary schools served 80 families with regular afterschool sessions to improve literacy and academic skills. The F.A.S.T. Family Academies focused on educational programs to foster family engagement. The 12 programs were held outside of regular school hours and included “Bedtime Stories” with children and their families in pajamas reading with teachers; Welcome to School programs for children entering school for the first time; super-hero themed Be a Learning Hero nights and “Movie Night” where families read a book together and a movie based on the book was shown on the district’s outdoor big screen.
New this year, F.A.S.T. Family Resource Centers were established in McNichols Plaza and Kennedy Elementary Schools as a space within the school library dedicated to student and family support. Filled with literacy kits, games, activity books and other tangible learning materials, the space also includes community service information and many parental information/educational tools. Children are allowed to sign-out
materials to take home and share with their families, and the families can also access the materials at the school.
The F.A.S.T. P3 Collaborative and Transition Team initiated “Kindergarten Dialogues” in which Pre-Kindergarten teachers share information and work toward continuity of curriculum and services. Our ultimate goal is to create strong, organized bridges between Early Learning and Elementary schools resulting in improved school readiness skills and better student outcomes. To this end, we created a “Getting Ready for Kindergarten” guide and readiness checklist for families and children as they prepare to enter Kindergarten.