Shelby County Courthouse. (Photo: ShelbyCounty.gov)
A week after a school shooting critically injured one student at a K-8 school, Shelby County officials on Wednesday debated directing more resources into early childhood education, with one resolution focused violence prevention measures.
Members of the education committee of the Shelby County Commission recommended approval of a $500,000 contract with Porter-Leath, a historic Memphis Head Start and preschool provider.
Porter-Leath previously served more than 3,000 at-risk Shelby County children for more than seven years, but in June, unsuccessful contract negotiations ended their relationship with the school district.
Families still had the option of sending their children if they paid full tuition or qualified for the Tennessee Department of Human Services Child Care Certificate Program, a subsidized child-care program — options not available for all families.
But the Shelby County Mayor’s Office expressed a desire to renew the contract through June 30, 2022 and committee members on Wednesday voted in favor of a $500,000 contract. The contract will now go before the full Shelby County Commission.
Committee members also discussed an add-on resolution encouraging the Shelby County Board of Education to require schools to offer conflict resolution courses as a means of reducing violence in primary and secondary schools.
On Sept. 30, a 13-year-old student shot another student at Cummings K-8 Optional School, leaving the student in critical condition.
“In our minds, we believed that would never happen in an elementary school. Well, case in point, Cummings, and it did,” said Commissioner Eddie Jones. “That’s very scary for elementary kids to have to endure something of that caliber.”
School board member Stephanie Love told commissioners that schools currently have social-emotional learning in place instructing staff members on providing additional support for children. Unfortunately, children are coming to school with issues occurring outside of school, Love said.
“In closing, I agree that we can always do more. I agree that we can always get better, and when I say we, I mean collectively, because a lot of our students are coming to school with issues that are taking place in our communities,” said Love.
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