MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Today was the first day of school for select Malmstrom Air Force Base families as the transitional kindergarten pilot program kicked off at the Great Falls Public Schools Early Learning Family Center in Great Falls, Montana.
The program is a result of the GFPS district and Malmstrom AFB working together to fill a gap in Montana’s education system. Montana is one of the six states in the U.S. that does not fund preschool programs, but Tom Moore, GFPS Systems superintendent, hopes this pilot program will help change that.
“This is one of the needs we’ve identified as an opportunity to make change,” he said. “We’ve opened our Early Learning Family Center for transitional kindergarten and we’re excited! We had to reallocate some of our budget and get creative, since the state of Montana doesn’t provide funding for pre-K, but we’re hoping this program is here to stay.”
The transitional kindergarten program has 18 Malmstrom AFB families enrolled, replicating the early learning childhood education they would find if stationed in a different state.
“As our military families move around and PCS, [this program] provides stability,” said Col. Barry Little, 341st Missile Wing commander. “Education is critical to mission readiness because when our kids are taken care of, our families can focus on accomplishing the mission.”
This is just one of the initiatives the GFPS and Malmstrom have partnered on to create new education opportunities. They have also collaborated on a shadow/internship for JROTC high school students, expansion of the violence prevention programs at Loy Elementary School and an educator’s summit hosted at Malmstrom earlier this year.
“We want to make sure military kids achieve their potential here and feel a sense of belonging in our schools,” Moore said. “When our children feel cared for, their parents are able to succeed.”
Little echoed the importance of partnership and a continued commitment toward education and learning.
“We were able to recognize a need and fill it with our community partners,” said Little. “I’m excited to be a part of this community and this program – it’s so important to make sure we’re setting our kids on a lifelong path of education and learning.”