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South St. Paul chosen for $20,000 grant to pilot new community-wide early learning initiative

Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 - South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) is pleased to announce the receipt of a $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to support the expansion of early learning programs and services throughout the South St. Paul community. The grant allows the district to build and align collaborative systems for learning, care and child development across providers and services for families with young children.  

Early Childhood parent and child “We are excited to be chosen for this initiative that will help ensure quality early learning and school readiness programs throughout the South St. Paul community,” said Connie Garling-Squire, director of early learning and equity. “For several years we have worked to enhance the district’s preschool and early childhood programs to better serve our families with young children. This new grant allows us to extend that work into collaborations with other early learning providers in the area, which in turn helps us to better support school readiness for all South St. Paul students and families.”  

SSPPS was selected for the grant to serve as a model for MDE’s PreK through 3rd Grade Initiative (P3). The program is based on national efforts to transform how children, prenatal to age eight, learn in and out of school. The initiative focuses on building strong connections between learning and developmental experiences across critical early learning years. The goal is that children and families have access to high-quality experiences through an inclusive, comprehensive P3 system. The end result is to ensure that districts and communities work in partnership to build aligned, coherent systems for learning and development throughout the prenatal through grade three continuum.

This is not the first time SSP Early Learning has been highlighted for its innovative efforts. In 2016, SSPPS was recognized by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Local Affairs with a Local Government Innovation Award for its groundbreaking work with Dakota County Social Services and neighboring districts in bringing partners and services together to help children reach key developmental milestones from birth to age 8.

According to Garling-Squire, the P3 grant will expand district efforts to build a comprehensive early learning system in South St. Paul. The initiative will include a variety of projects, such as the development of a community-wide Early Learning Leadership Team; shared professional learning, offered for free or discounted cost, focused on developmentally appropriate social and emotional learning (i.e., behavior) strategies for those who care for or provide early learning options in South St. Paul; and opportunities to strengthen the transition between preschool and kindergarten and beyond. 

“We are honored that South St. Paul has been chosen to pilot and lead this important work,” Garling-Squire said. “With all the research pointing to the long-term return on investment in early education, we are excited to be an example to other communities and to partner with local colleagues to provide a robust community-wide system of support for our earliest learners and their families.” 




Preschool Development Grant 

Minnesota received a $26.7 million federal grant to improve how state systems serve families with young children. Minnesota is one of 26 states to receive an award for the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5). Over the next three years, this renewal grant will build on the work from year one, which includes a partnership between three state agencies and the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet