By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (August 9, 2016) –Enrollment for post-secondary students interested in a career in childhood development is currently underway at Ranger College Erath County. And parents and caregivers of young children who are searching for a professionally operated, curriculum-focused childcare facility are also being encouraged to submit their applications as well.
Childhood development classes forming now
Three courses in childhood development will begin August 22, and the child development center is expected to open September 6, according to Heather Haile, director of childcare programs at the college.
“Academic advising is currently available” she said. “Potential students can come into the main office at our Stephenville campus and sign their name on the waiting list to speak with one of our advisors.”
“It’s definitely not too late to get started,” lead advisor Crystal Rose added, saying students who begin their college careers at Ranger benefit from smaller classes at a reduced cost.
Rose also said financial aid is available for qualified students, but for those who cannot get a grant or government assistance should not allow financial issues to deter them from applying.
“There are scholarships available and we also offer work-study programs,” she said, adding that most Ranger College students receive some form of assistance and advisors are available to help find solutions if money is a problem.
For Ranger College students, three courses in childhood development will be taught during the fall semester. Each of the courses will be led by newly appointed adjust instructor Haley Wilkerson every Monday and Wednesday. The schedule includes Child Development Associate at 9:25 a.m.; Educating Young Children at 10:50; and Wellness of the Young Child at 12:50.
“Sixteen hours (per semester) of observation will be required for each class,” Haile said.
For individuals looking for a new career path but not interested in a two or four-year degree, Haile said Ranger offers a quick path to a child development associate certificate, giving those students credentials for obtaining employment in the childcare industry and settings like church nurseries.
Ranger responds to childcare needs
The observatory is located in the newly constructed child development center on the Erath County campus.
“Ranger students will accumulate their lab (observation) hours while watching professional childcare workers interact with their students,” Haile added.
The state of Texas only requires childcare workers to be at least 18 years old and have a GED, but Ranger College Child Development Center (CDC) will be led by four teachers, each with a four-year degree.
“We are fortunate to be located in Stephenville, where we have a highly qualified job applicant pool in large part thanks to Tarleton State University College of Education,” Haile said. “We will look to find graduates with education and experience in early childhood development.”
The CDC will also employ four teacher’s aides, a nutrition specialist, a center coordinator to run the front office, custodial crew and eight part-time workers.
Meanwhile, Haile said the child development center is looking to fill 74 openings in the daycare center, answering a need for childcare in a community where all other facilities have a waiting list or limited availability.
“The child development center will be open to the public for private pay daycare services,” she said.
Just like the community college, families enrolling their children at the CDC can apply for financial assistance, which is available through the Texas Workforce Commission. Haile said qualification is based on family income and the number of children with the family, and assistance includes tuition assistance of up to $36 per day.
“Families in need of assistance can apply with me, I will help process the paperwork and send it to the appropriate region for approval,” Haile said, adding some families will get approval through the workforce commission’s Abilene office and others will be served by the Dallas/Fort Worth region. “That will be determined by zip code and place of residence since both regions encompass the local area.”
Ranger CDC will operate on the same schedule as Stephenville ISD, observing the same holidays as the school district. It will also use a widely implemented curriculum that is accredited by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
“More than half of the child development centers in the state use Frog Street curriculum,” Haile said, calling her own recent experience teaching the curriculum amazing. “It includes a social/emotional component, giving teachers and their students the tools to deal with issues like divorce and being raised in a single-parent home.”
She also said most of the children served by the CDC will have only one adult parent or caregiver in their home and those children are the nation’s future who will grow up to be productive adults with bright futures if they’re given the skills and resources to succeed from an early age.
Beginning September 6, the CDC will be open to students 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, excluding holidays.
Enrollment is underway for children who one-year-old and walking through preschool aged, with 13 spots of 12 to 17-month-old children; 19 openings for those age 18-24 months; 20 for toddlers age 2 and 3 years and 22 openings for prekindergartners, age 4 and 5 years.
CDC applications are available at the Ranger College Erath County Student Services offices, located at 1835 W. Lingleville Road in Stephenville.
The CDC website, which is currently under construction, can be found at www.rangercollege.edu/childdevelopmentcenter.
For more information on childcare, email Haile at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A community of providers working together
Haile has 12 years of education experience and said the ultimate goal of the CDC is to accommodate the needs of all preschool children. But, she said when it comes to special needs, each application will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if the CDC staff has the experience and ability to serve each child.
“We will work with early intervention specialists,” Haile said. “When a child is in some way developmentally delayed, the sooner we can reach that child and provide the needed therapy, the better.”
Meanwhile, Haile is working to form a consortium with childcare directors from across the area, bringing together professionals from Head Start and Early Head Start programs, private daycare facilities and others.
“We need to all come together to best meet the needs of the growing population of Erath County, where there are more than 100 children on individual waiting lists,” Haile said. “Each of them need a place to learn and grow.
“Licensed in-home providers are also important to our future and the children’s futures. They have the same credentials I have and provide what centers like Ranger College Child Development Center cannot provide.”
And, educators – whether their students are preschool or beginning their post-secondary learning – they share a common goal.
“We are all here to encourage and empower people and to help them grow,” Haile said.