Harriett Romo
Harriett Romo, project principal investigator

UTSA, SAISD launch early childhood education project

(Sept. 27, 2004)--The SAISD/UTSA Early Childhood Development Center designed to showcase the latest and best practices in early childhood education will open its doors next fall on the grounds of Navarro Academy, 623 S. Pecos St.

Officials from UTSA, San Antonio Independent School District and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) broke ground Friday on the project that will serve San Antonio's West Side community.

"We're excited to begin this new endeavor with UTSA," said Ruben Olivarez, SAISD superintendent. "This collaborative has many beneficial aspects to the early childhood educators who will exchange ideas to better their craft, to UTSA students who will learn the latest effective teaching methods, and to the people of this community who will receive another outstanding educational resource. More important, we're confident that the future educational success of our children will be established here in the nurturing environment of this facility."

Harriett Romo, UTSA associate professor of sociology and project principal investigator, obtained a $584,972 grant from HUD to develop the project. SAISD will fund the project at $1 million from the 2001 Bond Program for design and construction and will retain ownership of the building.

Of the HUD grant, $250,000 will also go to construction costs and the balance will be dedicated to curriculum development and new teacher training and support.

"We want to address the quality of services currently offered and hopefully provide the children the boost they need to gain equal educational footing with other children throughout the nation," Romo said.

Children ages 3 and 4 will be drawn from the near West Side, including families in public housing, the San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries shelter, teen parents in SAISD and UTSA Downtown Campus students with low to moderate incomes.

The collaborative effort will implement curricula based on the latest research in early childhood development, while some of UTSA's top educators in bilingual studies will help develop plans for best assisting the West Side's largely Hispanic population.

Meanwhile, the center will serve as a lab school with UTSA students studying early childhood as they observe classroom situations from the Downtown Campus in an unobtrusive manner through distance learning technology.

The early childhood development center will also serve as a community center, offering a reading laboratory for children with limited language development and parenting classes, as well as instruction on home ownership and small business development.

Romo hopes parents who come to the center for support will take an interest in its programs, strengthening each child's support system beyond the center's walls.

Noonan Rittimann Architects, LLC designed the center housed at Navarro Academy, one of San Antonio's first schools. Three of Navarro Academy's existing buildings are registered with the National Register of Historic Places. Valemas Inc. is the project contractor.

--Leigh Anne Gullett

University Communications
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