UAH ELC recipient of $120K First Class Pre-K Classrooms grant

ELC classroom

The UAH Early Learning Center has received a $120K state grant to help establish a new four-year classroom.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Early Learning Center has received a $120K grant from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The First Class Pre-K Classrooms grant will help establish a new four-year classroom in the Early Learning Center (ELC), located on the UAH campus.

The new classrooms will increase the size of Alabama's voluntary pre-kindergarten program for the 2017-2018 school year to 938 classrooms enrolling approximately 16,884 four-year-olds (28 percent of all four year olds) statewide.

"A high-quality childhood education program has long lasting benefits on our society as a whole," said Governor Kay Ivey. "Investment in our people through education, no matter at what level, is an investment in economic development. I am proud that we are now offering our nationally acclaimed First Class Pre-K program to more Alabama children and families."

"The UAH ELC received a grant last year to open one First Class four year old room. We are very happy to be able to add a second classroom this fall," said Deana Aumalis, Director of the UAH Early Learning Center. "These classrooms have a maximum of 17 four year olds with a Lead Teacher and Auxiliary Teacher. Our First Classrooms have been selected to participate in a national study implementing the High Scope Curriculum for young children."

High Scope, Aumalis said, initially began in the 1970's and is a research based, child directed curriculum where the emphasis is to Engage, Play and Encourage. The curriculum is user-friendly and addresses all areas that are included in the National Association for the Education of Young Children standards, Alabama Early Learning Guidelines, and Alabama Developmental Standards. High Scope research focuses on high quality early childhood education experiences. "These experiences have shown to have a positive and lasting impact on children's development and school readiness skills. Curriculum is a key component of program quality," Aumalis added.

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education ranks number one in the nation for the quality preschool programs in our state due to the funding of these classrooms. The First Class grant will fund all the materials needed to set up a quality classroom (materials, equipment, technology, field trips, etc.). There is continuous progress monitoring of students through the use of Teaching Strategies Gold, an on-line portfolio system that is shared with parents.

"Not only does the classrooms at ELC meet community needs, they also meet needs of students attending UAH. Nursing students observe and assist in classrooms during their course work in pediatrics. Additionally, nursing students assist with vision and hearing screenings. Students in the College of Education also observe, assist and practice teaching in classrooms at the ELC," Aumalis noted.

"We currently have openings for our new First Class classroom," Aumalis said. "If you have a child that will turn four years old by Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, and you are interested in our program, please call 256.824.4750, or visit: We will have a random selection for First Class classroom #2 on Monday, June 19".

Alabama's First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE). The department administers the program through competitive grants awarded annually. ADECE received more than 300 grant applications for new classrooms. Students are selected for the limited slots by random drawings at local sites.

The new First Class Pre-K four-year classrooms were made possible due to increased appropriations in the FY 2018 Education Trust Fund Budget along with funding from year three of Alabama's four-year federal Preschool Development Grant.

Aumalis noted that the First Class Pre-K registration will be online this year. "We appreciate your cooperation and enthusiasm as we move our processes online for accessibility, ease of use, and accuracy of data collection. The online forms are available in English and Spanish, can be completed on any wi-fi enabled desk computer, laptop, iPad, tablet, or smartphone."

Steps for pre-registration to obtain applications for random selection:

  • Open the attached spreadsheet for your region.
  • Locate the SITE name and SITE CODE for your site. This code must be entered by the parent into the online form for each child registering.
  • Publish the links to the registration forms along with your SITE CODE in any method you use to advertise registration — email the links and codes to families on your distribution list, embed the links, SITE CODE, and instructions on your organization’s website, or print and distribute a paper or brochure and include the links (copy and paste) and your SITE CODE.

Please note: The form is programmed to allow completion if the child’s date of birth falls within the range for Pre-K this year. If the child is five or not yet four years old on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, the program will not allow completion or submission of the form. Program hours are 8 a.m., to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday with after school and before school care provided if needed (for a monthly fee). You may register for the random selection online. Please use code: 289496.


Deana Aumalis
Director, UAH Early Learning Center

Joyce Anderson-Maples