Biloxi working to become Excel by 5 certified

By Meggan Gray - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It may look like fun and games, but children playing at Moore Community House in Biloxi are actually learning vital skills they'll need before going to Kindergarten.

"We work with children under 5 years at Moore community house and we see everyday how important it is to provide environments that are appropriate for children at every age level," says Carol Burnett, the center's director.

Burnett is also head of a coalition working to make Biloxi an Excel by 5 certified community.

"We're very excited about this, because once a community does become certified as an excel by 5 community, it means that there's a group of people who have gotten together, looked at the community, identified ways that the community is working to support children under 5."

Burnett's team is about halfway through the vigorous certification process. Biloxi must meet certain requirements for children in the areas of health, education, community involvement, and family support.

"At this point, one of the things we're really focusing on is recruiting all of the childcare centers in the city of Biloxi where children under the age of 5 are being served."

Dr. Janice Wilson is in charge of that recruiting.  She heads the coalition's early childhood education focus group.

"For this focus group we look at early childcare centers, what can we do to help you and also you help us in this partnership to ensure that children are ready for kindergarten and then ultimately ready for life, better prepared."

So far, Dr. Wilson says they have six childcare centers on board, but they'll need at least six more to meet the Excel by 5 goal.

She explains, "In order to participate in the early childcare and education group, you must be in city limits and you must operate six hours or more.  In addition to that, you must be state licensed. So with that, we have about 20 childcare agencies we are targeting."

Wilson says she is required to get 60 percent of those to participate.

September 25th is the deadline for childcare facilities in Biloxi to let her know if they're interested in joining the coalition. Once they have all those centers on board, the Biloxi coalition will immediately begin providing them with resources for children and their parents.

Burnett estimates Biloxi is still about a year away from completing its certification.

To learn more about how your community can become more child-friendly visit Excel by 5.

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