JACKSON, WY — It’s been a month of good news for Children’s Learning Center.

Wyoming Kids First and the University of Wyoming’s Early Childhood Outreach Network chose CLC to become one of the “best” early childhood programs in the state.

The selection doesn’t mean they are the best childhood program in the state — yet. But now, CLC will have the support and structure to become one of the best. They’re sort of guinea pigs, said CLC Executive Director Patti Boyd, but in the best way.

“We’re like a lab,” Boyd said, in the sense that everything CLC does will be closely monitored for how well it works. In the end, Wyoming Kids First and UW will be able to point to CLC and say “here’s a model that works.” Other places across the state can then emulate that model “in order to raise the bar on quality education,” Boyd said.

CLC is one of five centers selected to work on becoming the “best” in the state. Boyd said Wyoming Kids First likely chose the Jackson organization because it serves a “real cross-section of the community.” CLC’s four programs, including one in Sublette County, serve some of the valley’s more vulnerable families. Thirty percent of their preschoolers have special needs, and they have a dedicated special education program in Teton and Sublette counties. Many of the kids in their programs come from low-income and immigrant families — Head Start is devoted to just those students and helping them break generational poverty.

“Not every early education center has all those parts to it,” Boyd said.

But all those moving parts can also be a headache for CLC, especially when it comes to funding. Each program has a different source of funding. Boyd is hoping the extra support and guidance from Wyoming Kids First and UW can help those programs work more cohesively to strengthen the center as a whole.

CLC received this news at right around the same time as more good news: their Rafter J site state license was reinstated a month earlier than expected. Wyoming’s Department of Family Services placed CLC Rafter J on a provisional license in January after a series of violations and alleged mistreatment. CLC reported the violations to DFS themselves. “Assistance both before and after was swift and effective,” Boyd said in a press release.

“We’ve exceeded the expectations of the Department of Family Services to ensure the best care, safety, and well-being of your children at all our sites,” the press release said.

As with all improvements, CLC’s new chapter will “be a process,” Boyd said. “It will take time and effort, but we’re excited about it. We’ve been really looking hard to make improvements on our program, and to get this extra help I think will really help.”

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Buckrail @ Shannon

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.