Plainville Community Schools, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville CT 06062, (860)793-3200

District Programs Provide Critical Support to Students and Families

In a challenging economic landscape, two state funded school district programs in Plainville, Play2Learn and the Plainville Family Resource Network, continue to provide comprehensive support, valuable resources and critical services to our youngest learners and their families.

In its sixth year in the Plainville school system, the Play2Learn Program is in place at the Linden Street and Wheeler elementary schools, and is currently funded under the statewide Primary Mental Health Program (PMHP) grant. The program is designed after the Primary Project, a national model that helps students in kindergarten through third grade to feel more comfortable and confident at school by spending weekly one on one time with a trained adult called a Child Associate. Play2Learn uses child centered play as its focus, and incorporates cooperative play with peers. Pre and post evaluations are kept to track student progress, and children are exited from the program after completing a full school year. Some of the positive outcomes for program participants include more engagement in the learning process, greater self-control, and successful generalization of social skills into the classroom. The Play2Learn process begins each year with a screening of students in kindergarten through grade 3. Criteria for the screening focus on identifying students who may be at risk for issues such as social skills development. More than 50 students each year are able to participate in the Play2Learn Program. Once selected and approved, the students meet individually with the Child Associate for the first half of the school year to establish rapport and focus on child centered play to develop self control, confidence, and other social skills. During the second half of the year, students are paired with peers to further develop their skills through play. Parents of children in the Play2Learn Program are required to actively participate, working collaboratively with staff to set goals and monitor progress. "The parent involvement component is a wonderful introduction to the school system in a positive way. Through Play2Learn, parents are able to work together with district staff, become familiar with the school, and develop a relationship focused on the importance of parent involvement," explained Play2Learn Supervisor and Elementary School Psychologist Suzanne Schweitzer. "The screening component is also essential. Through the Play2Learn placement process, we systematically assess all students at the start of the school year and are able to identify those in need of extra support. We are then able to work together with other district staff to provide the critical resources that these students need to be successful."

The annual culminating event for the Play2Learn Program is a "Candy Land" themed play night. All Play2Learn Program children and their families are invited to the fun filled evening featuring staff members in Candy Land character costumes. "While the Play2Learn Program continues to provide critical support to our youngest learners and their parents, we are concerned about the impact of potential cuts to funding from the state," said Schweitzer.

The data indicates that less than five percent of the students who participate in the Play2Learn model go on to require special education services. During these difficult times, this is a cost efficient way to assist students and promote higher achievement.

The Plainville Family Resource Network (PFRN) is one of 62 state funded Family Resource Centers in Connecticut. According to the State Department of Education, the Connecticut Family Resource Center concept promotes comprehensive, integrated, community based systems of family support and child development services. In place at Linden Street School for 11 years, the PFRN has provided key programs and resources to thousands of local children and families. The PFRN is a school, family, and community partnership working to help children grow and acquire literacy skills. The PFRN provides a broad continuum of services to foster the optimal development of children and families. These services include parent education and training, family development and support, programs to foster positive youth development, adult education, and family child-care provider training.

More than 100 Plainville families are currently enrolled and attend parent and child interactive play and learn groups offered for children birth to five years, six times a week, including an evening session. Parents also benefit from the Parents As Teachers Program, providing personal visits to parents, information about early brain development, developmental milestones and general parenting support. "Conscious Discipline" parent education workshops are also offered. The Conscious Discipline Program fosters optimum parenting skills which ultimately promotes success in school and throughout life. During the school year, the PFRN, in collaboration with the Plainville Adult and Continuing Education Department, provides English language learner classes for adults while children participate in an English language immersion program of play. PFRN staff also reach out to the community through personal visits to local childcare providers to enhance communication, provide professional development, and support literacy. A variety of before and after school enrichment programs for elementary age students are also sponsored by the PFRN.

Faced with potential cuts to funding by the state, PFRN Site Coordinator Donna Cavallaro is holding an "Advocacy Event" on January 27th at 6:00 PM in the Linden Street School cafeteria. The venue includes pizza and childcare, and is open to the public. State and local government officials will also be in attendance. "The Plainville Family Resource Network is a vital resource for the community. Through the advocacy event we hope to create awareness and support for the services and resources that we provide," explained Cavallaro. As part of the advocacy effort, the PFRN has received nearly 100 emails and letters of support from parents, families, teachers, and community agencies. "The PFRN has been instrumental to my children as a transition to school in Plainville. Playgroup offers quality programs for children while being a great support system for parents," noted one parent.

The Play2Learn and PRFN staff collaborate on a number of programs, offering cross referral services and information sharing to maximize access to programs and leverage resources for local families. And while the fate of future state funding for these and other education programs is unknown, staff members continue to focus on meeting the needs of Plainville families. "Programs like Play2Learn and those offered by the PFRN are resources that are needed more than ever in these uncertain economic times when families are dealing with a multitude of issues," said Cavallaro and Schweitzer.

-Posted on January 12, 2009 at 03:35 PM

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