Families near the Northwest Baltimore City-Baltimore County line will have a new early childhood learning center open for students come July.
The upcoming Kennedy Krieger Integrated Early Learning Center in Windsor Mill hopes to be an innovative model in the early education field. The center will be open to up to 40 children, ages 3 to 5, from families of economic need and combine students with and without disabilities in the same classroom. The learning center will also function as a demonstration site, allowing early education professionals to undergo observations, trainings and coaching. Family involvement will also be encouraged.
“Early education is really the foundational mark,” said Jacqueline Stone, chief clinical officer at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which specializes in pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system.
Nancy Grasmick, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors and the former state superintendent of education, said the goal of blended classrooms is to help students with disabilities be able to return to their communities and progress into their area schools without needing to be placed in specialized settings, though such specialized care won’t be denied to those who need it.
Children will be accepted to the center through an application process and attend at no cost. Funding for the site comes from the Maryland State Department of Education, which gifted the Kennedy Krieger Institute $7 million, and federal Community Project Funding, which awarded the center $1.2 million.
“A top priority for the MSDE is to advance equity and inclusion for young children and their families, which will lead to better learning outcomes. This completely aligns with our goals at Kennedy Krieger,” Grasmick said in a news release. “We want to advance learning opportunities for as many children as we can, and we know this must start with early childhood education.”
Once the center is up and running, Grasmick and Stone said they want to see the center’s model replicated and scaled across Maryland.
“We already provide a multitude of services for children in early childhood and that includes educational offerings through our existing preschool programs. Our new early learning center complements what we offer, while allowing us to increase education, training and telehealth opportunities,” said Brad Schlaggar, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger, in a news release. “This model center is designed to serve students and their families and advance educators’ knowledge and effectiveness.”