Educare Flint shines a spotlight on expanded early childhood education for local children and families

A group of children play musical instruments for an audience.
Students at Educare Flint welcomed visitors to their school at a grand opening celebration. Photo: Rick Smith

Flint, Michigan — Educare Flint today welcomed — and was welcomed by — community members who took part in an opening celebration for the brand new, state-of-the-art school. Launched in the wake of the Flint water crisis as part of an urgent effort to increase access to early childhood education, the school will serve up to 220 Flint children from birth to age 5 each year.

It also will link students, their families and other residents with community-based services. And by offering professional development opportunities to all early learning and child care providers located in Flint, the school will help to strengthen the quality of early care throughout the community.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation President, Ridgway White, at the Educare Flint opening celebration
Mott Foundation President Ridgway White delivers remarks at the opening celebration.
Photo: Rick Smith

“All of the partners who helped to make Educare Flint a reality are motivated by a single, simple belief that all children deserve an equal chance to succeed,” said Ridgway White, president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. “The school will play an important role in efforts underway to improve the quality and variety of educational opportunities available to Flint kids — from cradle to college and career.”

Educare Flint opened its doors to students on December 4, less than a year after construction began on the almost 36,000-square-foot school. Adopting a “fast track” approach to completing the building while maintaining the highest quality standards was essential to the project, said White. The Mott Foundation provided $11 million in grants to support the construction.

That same commitment was reflected in the speed with which program partners worked to bring the national Educare model to Flint, says Cynthia Jackson, senior vice president of the Educare Learning Network. Created by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund and the Ounce of Prevention Fund in 2003, the Network acts, in part, to help its member schools — 23 to date, including Flint — provide children with stimulating, high-quality educational experiences that support success in kindergarten and beyond.

“The Educare approach extends beyond the classroom to help children, families and communities thrive,” Jackson said. “Educare Flint joins our national efforts to advance knowledge about effective early education practices and policies, and drive greater demand for high-quality programs across the country.”

Educare Flint teacher with children
A teacher at Educare Flint interacts with her young students.
Photo: Rick Smith

Lisa Hagel is superintendent for the Genesee Intermediate School District, which operates Educare Flint. She said the model’s emphasis on engaging parents and caregivers has long been central to her own views on education.

“Strong partnerships are an integral component of successful early childhood education,” said Hagel. “As we continue to build on these collaborations, using Educare Flint as a model, children across our entire community will benefit for years to come.”

“Educare Flint is a wonderful example of the good that can be accomplished when partners from different sectors with different expertise come together to invest in a better tomorrow for our kids,” said Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, another key partner in the initiative. “We’re excited to see the difference this school will make for all children in Flint.”

The state of Michigan also is playing a critical role. To help Flint families recover from the water crisis, the state piloted a project to support children’s free participation in high-quality, all-day, all-year early education programs.

“I am committed to ensuring that Flint children have access to high-quality early education services so that they can reach their full potential,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. “Flint is stronger when everyone works together, and I want to thank the Mott Foundation and the whole community for making this project a reality.”

Other partners who are helping to launch, support or implement the Educare model in Flint include: Flint Community Schools, which sold land — at a cost of $10 — on the campus of its Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School so the new Educare school could be built there; Michigan State University, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the University of Michigan-Flint.

Partners who helped with construction and financing of the building include Consortium Group, DW Lurvey Construction, Flint Community Schools, Flint Kids Learn, IFF, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, PNC Bank, RDG Planning & Design, and Uptown Reinvestment Corporation. The building is owned by Flint Kids Learn, a supporting organization of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

Enrollment currently is focused on children who live in Flint now and who also lived in the city during the period of potential lead exposure. Students’ families also must meet income requirements related to the state and federal funding streams that support participation in the program. Enrollment is free for those who qualify.

Parents interested in enrolling their child in Educare Flint or another local preschool program should call (810) 591-KIDS.