By Kaitlyn Krasselt, The Norwalk Hour – The school district checked another one off on its list of 26 priority implementation steps for the 2017-18 school year last week.

The Board of Education heard from the Norwalk Early Childhood Council on the development of a comprehensive strategic operating plan specific to early childhood education, which outlines and defines goals and steps for the education of children under 5 years old.

“Essentially we brought it down to the three words, ‘Ready to Learn,’” said Craig Creller, NPS interim chief academic officer and a member of the committee tasked with writing the strategic plan.

“We want all of our children who enter Norwalk’s kindergarten to be ready to learn. This is the foundation of the strategic operating plan to make sure that our children are ready to learn.”

About 85 percent of Norwalk children enter kindergarten with some type of pre-K experience, a number the council hopes to increase. But there are challenges — early childhood education and child care is expensive for families, and Norwalk has a shortage of subsidized spots for children.

“They are full always and there is a huge, huge, huge waiting list,” said NECC Planning Committee member Cathy DeCesare. “We have a real shortage of affordable toddler care in Norwalk and that doesn’t even consider the lack of affordable infant care.”

The council defined several goals for its strategic plan, including school readiness, family engagement and advocacy. The plan lays out steps for implementation and asks for a commitment from the district and asks for a commitment to the plan.

The Norwalk Early Childhood Council was formed in 2007 as a combination of the Norwalk School Readiness Council, Norwalk Kids Start Smart and the Norwalk Healthy Families Collaborative. In 2016, the council realigned its work with Norwalk ACTS and reduced its membership to 19 members appointed by the mayor and superintendent.

The council is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic plan for early childhood education, managing requirements of the School Readiness Grant, providing oversight for other funding streams, integrating activities with key partners like Norwalk ACTS and acting as a liaison to state and federal agencies that impact early childhood education.

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