EDCI Preschool: One year and going strong

Gaby Vargas and Brayden Moran, both 4, build and play in both Spanish and English at EDCI Preschool. The school, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, appears to be a great success by all measures. (Staff photo by Kristin Ellis)

The East Durham Children’s Initiative’s preschool, just celebrated its one year anniversary, and they have a lot to be proud of. The preschool, a collaboration between the Latino Educational Achievement Partnership and the City of Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department, is enjoying great success.

The preschool, located on Harvard Avenue, is at full capacity with 22 students enrolled and has a waitlist.

Brayden Moran, 4, spends his mornings learning and playing at EDCI preschool. The valuable skills learned here will guarantee his success when he transitions to kindergarten. (Staff photo by Kristin Ellis)

Brayden Moran, 4, spends his mornings learning and playing at EDCI preschool. The valuable skills learned here will guarantee his success when he transitions to kindergarten. (Staff photo by Kristin Ellis)

“We encourage families to join the waitlist because sometimes families move away,” said Lauren Stephenson, EDCI’s development manager.

The school allows for young kids to become immersed with others their age and get ready for the next step academically.

“It’s a great way to get kids from an early age and making sure someone is looking out for them so that they can be successful until they graduate from high school,” said Stephenson.

The school caters to English and Spanish speaking children and their families and teaches students both languages. The curriculum was designed for dual language learners and close to half of the 22 students are from Spanish-speaking families.

“I was watching some of the kids this morning and an English-speaking girl was singing along in Spanish,” said Stephenson.

Another important aspect of the preschool is that it for children from low-income families.

“When they go to kindergarten they will qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Stephenson said.

EDCI’s preschool is not only beneficial for the children but their parents and guardians as well.

“A lot of these kids would probably be at home with a mom or a relative or a grandmother, until they went to kindergarten, which is a big jump from being at home one-on-one and being in a group setting,” said Tonya Post, the preschool’s manager, who oversees the program.

The preschool parents are very active in the preschool’s day-to-day operations.

“We have a couple that volunteer. We have one dad that’s always cleaning up the yard,” Post said.

According to an EDCI Facebook post, in 2015, “95 percent of parents attended all parent-teacher conferences and at least one workshop or school event.”

“Many of the kids and their families have a parent advocate who maybe referring them for services and connecting them with different resources,” Stephenson said.

The children’s typical day begins with being dropped off and signed in by their parents in the building that EDCI uses free of charge for the academic school year, provided by DPR. The kids then look at the white board that has a question of the day for them to answer.

There are different themed areas for the kids to explore such as art, science, cooking, a cozy literacy station, and one for sensory which allows the students to touch objects and learn about the world.

“Kids will rise to the challenge of whatever expectations you put on them,” said Stephenson.

The children participate in group activities, free time, working with clay, and reading stories with their two teachers and two teachers’ assistants.

EDCI’s mission is to support children from early childhood until their high school graduation. However, when the preschool started in February 2015, this was a challenge and it was found out that EDCI needed to start as early as possible.

The children are assessed by Duke’s Stepping Stones Kindergarten-Readiness Program to be cleared to move on to elementary school, according to an EDCI Facebook post. Within the first year of the preschool’s operation, four of the children who were old enough to go to kindergarten were cleared.

More than likely, the students will go to Y.E. Smith Elementary School.

EDCI has over 40 partners for all of their programs. One partner is the Carolina Hurricanes Kids ‘N Community Foundation, who granted the preschool $50,000, according to EDCI.

The future of the preschool is certain – the school will continue to prepare students for the educational pipeline EDCI has worked to created.

The school is exploring options to open a second session due to demand by the community. As of now, the school is a half-day program and runs from 9 a.m. to noon.


Story and photo by Kristin Ellis, NCCU student reporter for the Durham VOICE.