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Woodland Hills Looks at a Proactive Approach for Preschool Families

Part I of a four-part series on Woodland Hills' 'Long-Range Plan for Excellence.'

When children in Woodland Hills School District start kindergarten, they all enter through the same door—but not with the same skills.

"In Woodland Hills, a lot of our kids come to school at age 5 who are so significantly behind their peers," Substitute Superintendent Alan Johnson said in an interview with Patch this week.

The long-range plan being introduced for consideration by the school board includes a focus on children from birth to preschool. As the district works to reorganize its schools to be more cost effective and provide better learning opportunities, it will be looking at giving its youngest students a better start in their educational careers.

For that reason, the long-range plan recommends opening a "Family Services Centre." The center would be a one-stop shop for young families, providing them with connections to help them with heating bills, food, screenings, speech/language services, immunizations, nutrition, child development issues, suitable living and jobs.

Johnson envisions the center as having a dedicated school district staff on site, including an administrator, social worker, clerical staff, school health professional, psychologist and speech/language professional, as needed. Space would be provided for local, state, federal and private agencies.

Johnson said that Fairless Elementary, which the school board is looking at closing next school year, would be a good location because it is geographically centered in the area where parents are most in need of help. The school building is accessible by walking from lower Swissvale, Rankin, Braddock, North Braddock and East Pittsburgh.

"We believe we can be a valuable addition to everything a parent does," Johnson said.

A public hearing to discuss the repurposing or closing of Fairless is scheduled for 7 p.m Tuesday, March 5, at the school, 531 Jones Ave., North Braddock.

Johnson said a Family Services Centre can co-exist with a few other uses, such as serving as a incubator for entrepreneurs hoping to grow their new businesses. The large classrooms could be divided to accommodate up to 10 small offices each.

The building could also house Delany Scholars pilot classes.

The district plans to market the concept this summer by attending community days in the municipalities that comprise Woodland Hills.

Check back with Patch for more information about the long-range plan.

Woodland Hills Looking at Themed Elementary Schools for 2014-15

Woodland Hills Long Range Plan: The Seven Tiers

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