NEW BEDFORD — At 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Bay Village Resource Center, 10 young children living in public housing learned multiplication tables, used computers, painted or learned about nutrition as part of the New Bedford Housing Authority’s voluntary summer learning literacy program.
“It’s what they will see in September. When September starts, the school year will be easier. If they have a struggle now, we can help them,” said Susan Norales, a mother of two children in the program.
The summer literacy program, managed by the Resident Opportunity for Self Sufficiency (ROSS) Program over the past three years, enables children to attend two hour sessions, four days a week to improve reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills, housing officials said.
Through a new partnership with New Bedford Public Schools, the New Bedford Housing Authority is now expanding the summer learning program by creating an after-school literacy program that will continue throughout the school year. It will encompass on-site tutoring, access to computers and the Internet and instructional materials that are in sync with what the children are learning in school.
“The New Bedford Housing Authority is no longer simply a bricks and mortar organization and as such has made education an intrinsic part of our long-term organizational goals,” said Executive Director Steven Beauregard. “If we don’t find ways to reduce the cycle of poverty and show kids there is a way out of poverty, we’ll be having these discussions 20 years from now.”
Access to quality early childhood education is critical for children who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, Beauregard said. Eighty-five percent of Pacheco Elementary Schools students are living in public housing and 26 percent of kindergarten students throughout the district enter school with no pre-kindergarten learning, school officials said.
“If I had a magic wand, there would be universal pre-school for every four-year-old in New Bedford. It’s an investment in the early years, an investment in middle school and high school and their future job employment,” said Schools Superintendent Pia Durkin. “There is no reason every child can’t have a brilliant educational career.”
While it will include programming for Grades K-3, the program will focus on pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students living at Bay Village, Presidential Heights, Ben Rose, Brickenwood and Nashmont who attend Gomes, Renaissance or Pacheco schools. Students will be identified for support by their teachers.
The students will start the program upon entering school and their progress will be monitored through Grade 3, using assessment data. The program is starting off small, at the three schools, and will expand eventually, school officials said. The partnership also aims to help uninvolved families become engaged in their children’s learning, strengthening the home-school connection, and help schools address lack of attendance and tardiness, housing officials said. The after-school programs will be based on curriculum used in the classroom
“For us, it’s a win-win,” said Durkin. “We struggle with making sure families are engaged. To have a partner involved with the families’ homes, helps give us credibility in the schools. It’s a win for New Bedford schools to be able to have kids come in prepared with what they’ll be working on. It helps kids have a head start and get a leg up on what they need to be ready for in school.”
ROSS coordinators Esperanza Alejandro-Berube and Lizandra Gonzalez will serve as liaisons between families and schools, meeting with school staff to review the students, hold classroom observation time and family engagement activities, Beauregard said.