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Northwest students in the School of Education gain profession-based experience with teaching at the University's Horace Mann Laboratory School and the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families. With the support of a $1.6 million grant from the Missouri Department of Social Services, the University will soon add an early childhood program for children 6 weeks to 3 years of age at the Leet Center. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Northwest students in the School of Education gain profession-based experience with teaching at the University's Horace Mann Laboratory School and the Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families. With the support of a $1.6 million grant from the Missouri Department of Social Services, the University will soon add an early childhood program for children 6 weeks to 3 years of age at the Leet Center. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Oct. 22, 2020

Northwest awarded $1.6 million to expand early child care for local families, learning for students


The Missouri Department of Social Services has awarded $1,644,372 to Northwest Missouri State University, designating it as one of five Missouri higher education institutions to receive more than $5 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Child Care Plan funding aimed at improving the quality and availability of child care and early education programs.

The grant, which is 100 percent funded with federal monies will allow the University to add a classroom for children from 6 weeks to 3 years of age in Northwest’s Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families.

The funding also will help Northwest provide valuable hands-on clinical experience for early childhood majors while they complete their degrees, and it will help shape the Leet Center into a community hub for quality child care with expert, professional supervision and a mission of excellence – providing a win-win for future teachers and families in surrounding communities.

“These funds will enable the Northwest School of Education to continue to innovate while dovetailing perfectly with our mission to prepare the next generation of excellent educators,” Dr. Tim Wall, the dean of Northwest’s School of Education, said. “This grant significantly expands the capacity of our early childhood program, providing remarkable, world-class preparation.”

The School of Education operates two laboratory centers on the Northwest campus to facilitate hands-on training for education candidates, staffed by master teachers – the Horace Mann Laboratory School, which serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and the Leet Center for Children and Families, which serves preschool children ages 3 to 5.

The School of Education operates two laboratory centers on the Northwest campus to facilitate hands-on training for education candidates, staffed by master teachers – the Horace Mann Laboratory School, which serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and the Leet Center for Children and Families, which serves preschool children ages 3 to 5.

As the new child care center fulfills a need for high-quality early childhood practicum placements within undergraduate and graduate programs, Northwest also expects the initiative will have a positive impact on the community it serves by filling a gap in child care access. The closure of Maryville’s only licensed early child care center earlier this year left a void in accredited, licensed childcare providers serving children from 6 weeks to 3 years old within a 45-mile radius.

“Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on our regional economy,” Northwest Grants Coordinator Tye Parsons said. “The lack of available, licensed child care – particularly for infants and toddlers – has resulted in a degraded labor pool, adding stress to the businesses and industries of our region seeking to fill critical labor positions. The proposed project will provide additional infant and toddler child care slots in a new, state-of-the-art child care center on the Northwest campus, thereby assisting both our businesses and northwest Missouri families who are anxious to get back to work.”

Additionally, families served by the new child care center and the existing preschool classrooms may participate in the Missouri child care subsidy program. The action provides childcare support to families who need it most in the Maryville area and improves economic diversity in the Leet Center in alignment with the University’s goals.

“For families, the Leet Center will become the preeminent place for learning,” Wall said. “One third of the new slots will be made available to those eligible for state subsidies, meaning that the best possible education will be available for all, regardless of wealth or status.”

While the Leet Center currently serves preschool children ages 3 to 5, the grant-funded expansion of the state-of-the-art center will provide infant and toddler child care for the first time on the Northwest campus. Northwest will reconfigure the Leet Center by transforming one of its existing large preschool classrooms into a birth-to-3 room. The remodel will maintain the current number of preschool slots while adding 20 slots for infants and toddlers.

The new center will be a next-generation childcare facility with a focus on the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, through which children build knowledge with play. Modern technology enhancements, including audio-visual observation stations to support teacher candidate learning and remote closed-circuit video, will provide an unparalleled experience for children and caregivers alike. Parents also may check on their children from their own devices.

Upper-level early childhood education majors will staff the center, receiving guidance from master instructors, enabling profession-based learning through hands-on experiences in a licensed, controlled setting led by early childcare experts. The staffing model will allow the center to maintain the required 4-to-1 child-to-staff ratio.

Work on reconfiguring the early childhood space and expanding the program is beginning immediately with the intent to be operational by July 1, 2021. The center will operate year-round from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Wall thanked Cindy Rouner, the director of the Leet Center, and Parsons for their contributions to the successful grant application.

“We are truly blessed beyond measure to have such a collaborative team of experts in grant-writing, pedagogy, architecture and policy to put together a worthy grant in such a condensed timeframe,” Wall said.

 

About Northwest’s School of Education

Founded in 1905 as a regional teacher training institution, Northwest Missouri State University has evolved into comprehensive state-assisted university that serves more than 7,200 students and places emphasis on profession-based learning to help graduates get a jumpstart on their careers.

Simultaneously, the Northwest School of Education’s mission is to prepare caring teachers who possess the highest level of professional knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to help all students learn in a diverse and ever-changing world. Northwest education programs have been fully and nationally accredited since 1954, with the most recent accreditation renewal continuing through 2027, by the Association for Advancing Quality in Education Preparation (AAQEP) and the state of Missouri through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the office of Educator Quality.

In 2018, Northwest became one of only three universities in the nation to call itself a two-time recipient of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award; the University received its first McAuliffe Award  in 2006. The national recognition highlighted Northwest’s reimagined, social-justice infused curriculum and abundant clinical field experience placements for education majors. Within the curriculum, teacher candidates observe and practice their teaching in urban, suburban and rural settings with students from diverse backgrounds.

The School of Education operates two laboratory centers on the Northwest campus to facilitate hands-on training for education candidates, staffed by master teachers – the Horace Mann Laboratory School, which serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and the Leet Center for Children and Families, which serves preschool children ages 3 to 5. Observation and practicum hours are carried out in the two school centers, conveniently located in the same building, Everett W. Brown Education Hall, as the academic classrooms and faculty offices. This arrangement allows expert teachers to partner with child care providers to prepare early childhood educators in a real-world setting, while providing student employment and clinical practice opportunities. 

Northwest teacher candidates graduate with more than 550 hours in profession-based clinical practice. With that experience, more than 98 percent of Northwest education program graduates since 2017 have found employment or continued their education within six months of graduation while the number of students pursuing undergraduate or graduate education degrees has increased from 819 in 2017 to 1,777 this fall.


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704