A New Home for the Southington Family Resource Center
“Wow! This is school!” four-year-old Olivia exclaimed as she arrived at the Southington Family Resource Center located in Room 17 at Hatton School. Home daycare provider Sue Cyr recounted Olivia’s first impression of the classroom as she explained, “I could take the children in my care to the park to run around, but until this classroom opened I was not able to give them the opportunity to go have a school experience.” Krista Pringle, the center’s director, added, “The work we do here is beneficial to everyone. It doesn’t matter what a family’s socio-economic background is, because everyone benefits from receiving help with parenting and school readiness skills.”
The center had been operated mainly out of a small room at Derynoski School for the past four years. But the space was suitable only for storage and as an office; staff had to travel from one school to another for classes and other programs. “We were working out of the trunk of our cars,” Pringle said. “We spent most of our day traveling, setting up programs, and then breaking down.” Pringle lobbied Superintendant Joseph Erardi for more space, and took him on a visit of the family resource center in Plainville. Staffing changes in the Southington elementary schools resulted in classroom space becoming available at Hatton School starting in the fall of 2012. Pringle said that she realized that many families were willing to travel to a centralized location and it would not affect the program. Many families were coming to the program based on the days that were best for them, not whether they were at an elementary school close to home or not.
A $3,655 grant from the Douglas and Noreen Schumann Special Interest Fund at the Main Street Community Foundation in the spring of 2012 provided the funding to furnish the classroom. Child-sized tables and chairs, brightly colored floor mats, bookcases, a cozy reading nook and shelves full of instructional materials adorn the room. A wall of windows and a door that allows participants direct access to the classroom from the parking lot create a welcoming, cheerful environment.
Sue Cyr used to bring the children in her care to the Kelly School Gymnasium to participate in programs. “This feels more like school than the gym did. The programs at the gym were great, but there was a lot we weren’t allowed to do – arts and crafts, computer classes, snack time. Also, the children in my daycare do not have access to a computer. I can take them to computer classes here.” Little Clickers, one of the programs at the Southington FRC, is specially designed to develop children’s comfort and control in using a computer, while building their pre-reading and pre-math skills at the same time.
In addition to Little Clickers, fall programs at the center include: Messy Monsters (an art experience class for children and their favorite adult), Big Cook/Little Cook, Playgroup, Calling All Characters (story time with a related craft) and Raising Readers Parent Club. The programs are designed to help pre-school age children develop literacy, numeracy, communication and fine motor skills. Children learn how to function successfully within a classroom environment by sharing with others, following directions, cleaning up after themselves and transitioning from one activity to another. Programs also serve to assist adults in the development of parenting skills and to create an awareness of the school readiness skills children are expected to have upon entering a preschool or kindergarten program.
“Having our own room along with our own materials means we do not have to schedule programs based on the availability of space in other schools. In addition, we hadn’t been part of a school community until the center was given a dedicated space at Hatton School,” Pringle explained. “Sometimes, we would be overlooked. For example, we would show up to set up for playgroup in the gym and discover that a book fair was being held in that space. The book fair organizers would forget to let us know in advance and we’d have to cancel the program and turn families away. Now it’s different. We feel like we have a true home here. We are invited to professional development opportunities and staff meetings at Hatton School.”
Morning programs at the center are so popular that they fill before the registration deadline and usually have a long waiting list. Afternoon programs also attract participants, but are not as well attended because afternoons tend to be a busy time for families and daycare providers (lunch, naps, the need to pick older children up from school or meet them at the bus stop, etc.). Pringle recounted the results of a recent survey, “We received 187 responses. Families feel that working parents are not provided with enough opportunities to participate in programs with their children based on the current program schedule. In January, we will address that need by offering evening playgroups and Raising Readers workshops.” Sue Cyr nodded in agreement, “The program should continue to be expanded.”