Porter-Leath’s new Early Childhood Academy will welcome its first students on Feb. 10 at a site adjacent to its existing S. Lauderdale campus in South Memphis.
The $9 million state-of-the-art preschool and teacher training institute will provide comprehensive early childhood education and support services for underprivileged children from infancy to age five as well as their families, along with professional training and development for preschool teachers and educators.
Porter-Leath serves approximately 12,000 students per year, most from low-income or at-risk families, at its 14 area locations. Upwards of 10 percent its students are disabled.
Flintco Construction broke ground on the new academy last March and construction wrapped up last month. Early learning facility specialist RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, Neb., created the plans for the 16-classroom, 32,000-square-foot building, which will accommodate 224 students.
Child-friendly architecture accentuates natural light, lush landscapes and bright colors that enrich learning opportunities. The design incorporates local culture, history and geography into safe, inviting spaces that encourage play and exploration.
“The river and forest elements of Memphis flow throughout the building,” said Rob Hughes, development director for Porter-Leath. “It’s even incorporated into the walls with wavy wood in the hallways like a river that the kids can run their hands on, and on the other side with the forest there is hard wood flooring that looks like a tree with some wraps to make it engaging in the hallways, not just in the classroom.”
The center has an on-site kitchen for preparing meals for the kids, and a playground area on the back of the facility wraps around to the front gives students a chance for creative play.
“It really opens up the learning environment,” said Hughes.
The academy’s training and meeting rooms are open for community use for things like financial literacy education sessions and nutrition seminars.
A focal point of the new school will be the teacher excellence program, developed in partnership with Shelby County Schools to provide continual training for preschool educators.
“There’s really nothing like it in the country,” said Hughes. “We want to educate not only our teachers and educators but also educators from around the community like those working at daycares or other preschool providers. The goal is to make sure quality is enhanced community-wide.”