MCPSS partners with First Class Pre-K to serve 1,000 students

December 2, 2015

On December 2, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley joined Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek to announce that the state’s largest school system is converting 50 pre-k classrooms into First Class Pre-K sites. View photos from the event. 

“The most important part of a child’s education is a good, solid foundation at a young age, and Alabama’s First Class Voluntary Pre-K Program provides that,” Bentley said. “I commend Mobile County Public Schools for their history of commitment to early childhood education and for the decision to convert to our First Class Program. The result is that children in the largest school system in the state will graduate prepared and productive citizens.”

With the change, about 1,000 additional local students will have access to the nationally recognized, high-quality pre-k program.

First Class Pre-K will be offered at 27 elementary school sites across the county as well as at Just 4 Developmental Laboratory, a stand-alone school that serves about 300 students in Mobile’s Toulminville community.

“It’s exciting to be joining forces with the Office of School Readiness to support Pre-K education in the state of Alabama,” Peek said. “The 25-year commitment to Pre-K education in Mobile County Public Schools will be enhanced through this partnership with the nationally recognized First Class Pre-K.”

The First Class Pre-K program is Alabama’s state funded program for 4-year-old children who are residents of the State of Alabama. In order to receive funds for a First Class Pre-K Classroom, organizations must first complete an online application. The online application process is currently open at and ready for applications. The submission deadline is March 20, 2016.

“Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program is offered in a variety of settings throughout the state, and is supported by grants that help support other funding sources needed to operate a classroom. The grants are an important investment we make in the life of a child. The grant application process has opened early in order for more opportunities to expand access to Pre-K. I encourage any entity that desires a successful Pre-K program to apply,” Bentley added.

Alabama is one of only four states in the country to meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research for Pre-K programs. The benchmarks include teacher training, staff-child ratios, support services and more.

First Class is managed by the Office of School Readiness, which is part of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

Introducing Gov. Bentley was Brian Bucher, Regional President of PNC Bank. The PNC Foundation recently awarded a grant to MCPSS to help acquire technology needed to transition pre-k classrooms to the First Class Pre-K model.

Bucher is a member of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s Pre-K Task Force, a statewide coalition of 51 prominent leaders from the business, education, civic, medical, legal, philanthropic, military, and child advocacy communities. The Task Force is leading a 10-year initiative, now entering its fourth year, to fully fund Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program while maintaining the program’s strong benchmarks for quality and accountability.

“Investing in Alabama’s young children and families is the right thing to do as we prepare the workforce of tomorrow,” Bucher said. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is the country’s top-rated program for quality. First Class Pre-K graduates are more prepared for school and consistently outperform their peers in reading and math. Through PNC Grow Up Great, we are committed to helping prepare children age zero to 5 enter kindergarten ready to learn, and will continue to advocate for access to First Class Pre-K for our state’s 4-year-olds. We thank Mobile County Public Schools for their longtime commitment to Pre-K and congratulate them on their recent designation as First Class.”

Mobile County Public Schools began offering voluntary pre-k with the opening of Just 4 in 1988 and has expanded its number of classrooms over the years.

By converting to First Class, Mobile County will adhere to First Class program and classroom guidelines while also receiving new materials, furniture, supplies and additional professional development for pre-k teachers and auxiliary teachers to support high-quality, developmentally appropriate pre-k.

“Our Pre-K program is strong. Now we’re getting stronger,” said Paula Reese, Mobile County Public Schools Pre-K Program Manager.