ELYRIA — Long before the Stocker Foundation cut a check to Elyria Schools for $1.25 million for a new preschool and technology program at Franklin Elementary School, the countywide foundation saw promise in other district initiatives and funded them accordingly.
First, it was Wilson Fundations, a brain-based, multi-sensory early literacy program. Students across the district began snapping and clapping out phonetic sounds to advance reading skills in 2010 with a $105,000 foundation grant. Funding soon followed for a guided reading and tablet program for other projects started by the district.
The partnership of Elyria Schools and the Stocker Foundation has produced several successes. But the Franklin program, called New Beginnings, could be the biggest and best project yet, said Patricia O’Brien, the foundation’s executive director.
She, along with foundation board president Brenda Norton, toured the renovated classrooms of the school Friday.
“The transformation here is just incredible,” O’Brien said. “I can already see how this is going to take shape over the next five years. We are excited to be here to witness the successes along the way.”
The event at the school on 11th Street was exclusive for program partners, district personnel and the media. Plans are in the works to offer a community open house soon after school opens Monday.
Changes to the school include the addition of two preschool classrooms for up to 36 4- and 5-year-old students, a fine motor skills room, community computer lab and multipurpose meeting room. The reform plan crafted for Franklin for the next five years will focus on a preschool, early education, literacy, technology and parent involvement.
Norton said Stocker Foundation board members are excited to see what New Beginnings can do.
“We are eager to see how the children grow and will watch and follow them over the next five years,” she said. “We’re happy to be here and happy to help.”
During the next five years, the foundation will have gifted Elyria Schools more than $2 million.
Superintendent Paul Rigda said the partnership Elyria Schools and Stocker Foundation has developed benefits students.
“We know we can’t do this by ourselves,” he said. “We used to operate in silos, only going outside our doors when we needed help. Now, we know we need to bring others in early because we can only do so much alone.”
O’Brien said Elyria is well-positioned to succeed with New Beginnings.
“There are a great principal and teaching staff in place at Franklin Elementary who are not going to let the children and their families fail,” she said. “The excitement and energy are absolutely contagious. Each time I visit the school to check on progress, I am amazed at the transformation of the building and how ready the teachers are to have the children back in the building.”