In April, construction started on a new Educare center in West Chicago, a suburb in Illinois’ DuPage County, about 30 miles west of the Windy City. Educare is nationally recognized for providing high-quality early care and instruction for children from birth to age five. Educare of West DuPage, as the new center is known, is their first site in a suburban location. Its founders say this decision was meant to highlight the fact that 40 percent of children who live in poverty in the United States reside in the suburbs. The new Educare is near West Chicago’s Pioneer Elementary school, which has the highest percentage of children in poverty of any school in the county.
This development is also of interest to those of us who follow Latino early education. West Chicago, like much of the rest of the Chicago metro area, has seen large increases in its Latino population over the past two decades. (Though this report only covers the period from 1990 to 2000, you get the idea.) The town’s website shows 2007 demographics broken into two local markets; both areas are heavily Hispanic, one is majority-Hispanic. The local elementary district has developed a dual-language immersion program which was highlighted at last November’s conference in Chicago on New Journalism for Latino Children and which I mentioned in Early Years. The new Educare will also use a dual-language format to help children prepare for the elementary school program. How’s that for birth-to-third-grade planning?
Local reporting (Daily Herald) highlighted the fact that West Chicago’s school district has supported the effort by donating land for the construction and promising continuing maintenance support, even though the district’s own pre-K program is facing steep cuts. The online comments attached to the Herald article are perhaps even more interesting. Among a flurry of comments questioning the expense of the Educare facility, one of which alleged the center would serve only illegal immigrants, a local school board member posted his phone number and e-mail and announced he would take questions personally! At the end of the thread, a couple of posters supported the project, which is largely privately funded, as a boon to the neighborhood.
I look forward to learning more about the program once the center opens–currently anticipated for spring 2012.