Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Early Education Gets Close Look In Panhandle


April 25, 2019

A new collaborative report - “The Nebraska Panhandle: An Assessment of Birth-Grade 3 Care and Education” - was released at a special luncheon and panel discussion in Gering last Wednesday, April 17.

In attendance were representatives of Educational Service Unit (ESU 13), Panhandle Partnership Inc., the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska, and leaders from 11 Panhandle counties.

The report was based on gathered information from the past four months of focus groups that included more than 200 Panhandle residents throughout 15 communities.

A press release regarding the meeting was released last Wednesday afternoon, April 17, stating:

The report was produced by Educational Service Unit (ESU) 13, the Panhandle Partnership, Inc., and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska. The three organizations came together to better understand and improve early learning and developmental outcomes for children in the


The report details key findings based on extensive community mapping work and information obtained

from four months of focus groups with more than 200 Panhandle residents across 15 communities.

Participating school district communities included Alliance, Banner County, Bayard, Chadron, Hay

Springs, Hemingford, Garden County, Gering, Gordon-Rushville, Kimball, Mitchell, Morrill, Potter-Dix,

Scottsbluff, and Sidney.

Thirty-nine percent of children from birth to age 5 in Nebraska are considered at risk for school failure,

and census data indicate that these numbers are growing faster in rural counties than urban areas.

“The need for high-quality early childhood programs and services is urgent and growing,” said Jeff West,

ESU 13 superintendent. “The collaborative report we are releasing today summarizes information

gathered from community members, parents, and educators across the Panhandle about children,

families, and programs in each of the 15 participating communities and school districts. It also includes

our new vision statement describing the bright future we imagine for young children.”

“The collaborative work between ESU 13, the Panhandle Partnership, and the Buffett Early Childhood

Institute supports many outcomes and priorities of the strategic vision and direction of the State Board

of Education and Nebraska Department of Education,” said Dr. Blomstedt, Nebraska’s Commissioner of

Education. “The work in the Panhandle is poised to provide a model for school-community partnerships

to serve young children and families throughout the state.”

Along with the report, organizers presented A Vision for the Panhandle, aimed at improving the learning

and development of young children in the Panhandle. The vision statement articulated by a Panhandle

leadership team will serve as a guiding principle as ESU 13, the Panhandle Partnership, Inc., and the

Buffett Institute continue to work collaboratively to develop a strategic plan for a sustainable, schoolbased

early childhood initiative in the Panhandle.

Watch the Observer for additional information regarding the dissolution of the Head Start Program in Kimball next month, with regards to the importance of early childhood education.


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