Comprehensive community education is the linchpin in BDF’s overall mission. There is compelling evidence of the enormous literacy crisis for children of poverty, which continues to be a major problem in New Orleans eight years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A 2011 community survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 42% of New Orleans children under the age of 18 live in poverty. This far exceeds the national rate of 22%. Findings from studies examining the link between socioeconomic and school readiness have largely concluded that children living in poverty arrive at kindergarten 18 months behind their middle-class peers, and that children who start school with a disadvantage are unlikely to catch up to their classmates unless high quality early educational and developmental intervention programs are made available. BDF is working to address this need for quality early education and public education for children currently living in households at or below poverty.
The Bayou District Foundation has developed, in partnership with Educare nationally and Kingsley House locally, a strong plan to deliver quality early education to 150 children annually. Educare is a national network of early learning facilities that share a platform to leverage sustained investments in early childhood. They share a commitment to raising standards of quality for "birth to age five” programs, leveraging public/private partnerships, and advocating for policy and systems change in a sustained way. Developed in 2000, Educare is a state-of-the-art, full-day, year-round early childhood education program for at-risk children from birth to age five focused on significantly narrowing and even preventing the achievement gap from taking root in the early years. Over the last decade, Educare has expanded steadily across the country through the leadership of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund and the Ounce of Prevention Fund. For more than 115 years, Kingsley House has been at the forefront of early education and high quality child care in Louisiana. Kingsley House’s nationally accredited, state certified historic Head Start and Early Head Start programs currently provide a dynamic, comprehensive array of academic and social enrichment activities, along with essential health and supportive services children and their families.
The First Educare facility in the southern United States is being constructed at Columbia Parc at the Bayou District. It is expected to open in August 2013.
K-8 Charter School
A K-8 charter school will also be developed at Columbia Parc in partnership with our local school system. In Spring 2011. With a quality K-8 school next door to receive and further cultivate Educare students, we will not only provide neighborhood children with a high quality education but will also track their results through 8th grade and beyond. Parents will be strongly encouraged to take full advantage of the seamless transition from "birth to five” to K-8, and the grade school will directly coordinate its Kindergarten activities with the Educare of New Orleans early learning center.
McDonogh #35 High School
The third leg of our core "cradle to college” continuum is the introduction of McDonogh #35 College Preparatory High School to the Bayou District neighborhood. Since opening in 1917 as one of New Orleans Public Schools’ first dedicated African American schools, McDonogh #35 has proven to be one of the city’s finest public schools. The Orleans Parish School Board has allocated $70 million dollars in FEMA recovery funds tied to a site within the Bayou District to construct a new college preparatory high school, and the Orleans Parish School Board leadership has determined that McDonogh #35 should move from its current landlocked two acre site to this larger 16 acre, waterfront site. The addition of McDonogh #35 allows BDF to create a tightly focused "cradle to college” pipeline within a four-block area. The future home of McDonogh 35 has undergone extensive environmental remediation throughout 2012 and construction is expected to begin shortly so that a January 2015 opening can be realized.
Community Support Services
Founded in 1896, Kingsley House is nationally renowned as the oldest Settlement House in the South. For more than 115 year, Kingsley House has provided children, adults, elderly and families throughout the greater New Orleans area with a comprehensive continuum of innovative and creative programs and services. Kingsley House’s mission, "Kingsley House educates children, strengthens families and builds community," is the driving force, which remains even more vital in the aftermath of the Hurricanes, the BP Oil Spill and the current economic challenges. Kingsley House’s role within the Bayou District footprint is two-fold –
1. Kingsley House provides the on-site community support services for the residents of Columbia Parc. They were originally charged with connecting with the former St. Bernard Project residents to determine their current status and if interested in returning, providing resources and support to ensure a successful transition into Columbia Parc.
2. Kingsley House is the managing partner of the Educare of New Orleans early learning facility. They have assisted in developing and implementing two temporary sites for 80 pre-K children, who will transition into a 150-student, birth-to-five early learning program in 2013.