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Fayette schools bolster early education outreach with book program, mobile classrooms

Josh James

With the state unlikely to move toward the governor’s goal of universal pre-K any time soon, Fayette County Schools is launching a series of programs aimed at shoring up early childhood education.

The First 5 Lex campaign will focus on boosting learning during the earliest years of a students’ life – before they even set foot in kindergarten. The reason: Fayette County Superintendent Demetrus Liggins says fewer than half of the students coming into the system aren’t prepared.

"In a 2021-22, just last year, we had the lowest scores ever on kindergarten readiness."
Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins

Those scores: just 41% were ranked as kindergarten ready. And that includes metrics ranging from communication to social-emotional to motor skills.

In an attempt to remedy that, the district is expanding its early childhood outreach, adding Dolly Parton’s well-known Imagination Library program, which mails free, high-quality books to children regardless of income, and a set of two mobile classrooms intended to literally take learning out into the community.

"We are calling these classrooms on wheels," Liggins explained. "These buses will take preschool fun and curriculum into Lexington neighborhoods, complete with fully-licensed staff members who will read, talk, and play with our students, as well as teach families and caregivers how to do it."

Liggins quoted research saying 90% of a child’s brain development takes place in the first five years of life — making it a particularly crucial time to get the building blocks for learning in place.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.