WALDORF, Md. – The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) will lease its former St. Charles Children’s Learning Center (CLC) to Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) to add additional availability for full-day prekindergarten programing in Charles County. Under the agreement unanimously approved by the CSM Board of Trustees at its Nov. 17 monthly meeting, CCPS will lease the CLC for two years starting Jan. 1, 2023 with an option for two additional years after June 2026.
The lease agreement will aid CCPS in meeting the requirements set forth under the new Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation (HB-1300) passed in 2021 which requires public school systems to establish and implement free, high-quality prekindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families, and offer prekindergarten to all other 4-year-olds with fees set at a sliding scale. The goal of the prekindergarten programming is to prepare children socially, emotionally, physically and academically for kindergarten and beyond.
Beginning this school year, CCPS started offering a full-day prekindergarten program at all of its 22 elementary schools. Currently, there are 847 children enrolled, and nearly 220 children on a waiting list for public school placement. CSM’s CLC is a 10,000-square foot stand-alone building that includes nine classrooms, a gymnasium, a prep kitchen and private landscaped playground located at the north side of the La Plata campus.
“CCPS is excited to expand our prekindergarten program to a larger number of students in the Charles County community,” said Charles County Public Schools Superintendent Maria Navarro, Ed.D. “When children have access to early learning opportunities such as prekindergarten, they are better prepared to start school.
“Prekindergarten students learn about school readiness through activities designed to build language and literacy skills, mathematical and scientific thinking, and social and emotional skills,” she continued. “CCPS has a longstanding partnership with CSM to offer additional learning opportunities for students mostly geared at the high school level. Now, that partnership is helping us to support more students with a focus on school readiness for young children”
“We are thrilled to enter into this MOU to support Charles County Public Schools and help our youngest learners get off to a great start,” said CSM Board of Trustees Chair Shawn Coates. “This is just another example of CSM’s far-reaching goal to help our students, our partners, and our communities meet the challenges of individual, social – and in this case—legislative changes that improve our educational systems.”
The CLC was established to provide CSM students, faculty, staff and community members with quality, child-centered care in January 2006. The center closed when the college moved to predominantly remote operations in March 2020 in response to COVID-19 pandemic.
“The CLC always fulfilled its charge of providing high-quality educational services, but it also always struggled financially,” explained CSM Vice President of Operations and Planning Dr. Bill Comey. “At the time the center closed in 2020, only five of the children enrolled were children of students and only four were children of employees.”
The effects of the closing during the pandemic were particularly disruptive to the operation of the center, Comey further explained.
“Parents of children in the center found other childcare arrangements and furloughed CLC employees found other jobs,” he said. “After spending a considerable time reviewing and analyzing when and how to reopen the CLC, and how to do this in a cost-effective manner that met our mission, the college decided to not reopen it. Instead, we began seeking an outside entity interested in operating this space. This initiative allows both organizations to honor the CLC – which was established as a ‘learning center’ for our youngest community of learners – as well as strengthen and enhance the on-going partnership between CSM and CCPS.”
The CCPS prekindergarten program is neither mandatory nor guaranteed. In accordance with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, first priority is given to students whose families meet the income eligibility for Tier I, are homeless or are in foster care, or have a current, active Individualized Education Plan (IEP). All Tier I students are admitted after verification. Tier II and Tier III students may be placed if slots exist after all Tier I students are placed. For a full description of the three application tiers, click on the following link: Prekindergarten application tiers.