The Napa Valley Vintners announced its final category of funding from the proceeds of the 2012 Auction Napa Valley fundraiser.

The Vintners will invest $3 million to close the academic achievement gap by helping to implement high-quality preschool services in local school districts.

In Napa County, nearly half of all kindergartners are English-language learners, and by third grade, there is a 34-percentage point difference on standardized testing scores between fluent English speakers and those who are learning the language, according to the Vintners. In addition, nearly 10 percent of Napa County residents live in poverty, which also directly affects children's development and educational outcomes.

The Vintners pilot preschool program will be launched this September in four Napa County elementary schools, including one at Calistoga Elementary School and three in the Napa Valley Unified School District. The NVUSD schools have yet to be identified, but they will be in schools with high percentages of English learners. One will be in American Canyon, and two will be in Napa, according to the Vintners.

To help close the academic achievement gap, the Vintners’ plan also includes:

— Coaching for preschool instructors on language development, social and emotional development and basic learning skills

— Summer programs for those about to enter kindergarten who have not attended preschool

— Family-friendly English as Second Language classes and other workshops for parents to support their children's growing academic and literacy skills

— Support for children and families making the transition from preschool to kindergarten

The goal is to create a model to use at schools countywide to close the academic achievement gap among Napa County students by third grade, according to the Vintners.

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“Studies have shown that when children start school behind, they remain behind,” said Janine Burt, principal at Bel Aire Elementary School. “But it also shows that early intervention — such as high-quality preschool to ensure kindergarten readiness — not only works, but is where we can make the greatest impact with the greatest cost effectiveness.”

Burt said her teachers see a “tremendous difference” in the kids who attend preschool.

“They not only gain needed skills, they learn how to be a student and understand the language and processes of school,” Burt said.

The first $1 million of the Vintners investment is the final category of funding from Auction Napa Valley 2012 proceeds. The remaining $2 million for this initiative will be distributed from Auction Napa Valley proceeds in 2013 and 2014.

In total, the Vintners have bestowed $7 million in six categories of giving from the 2012 auction. Auction proceeds have also supported medical services, education, and safety net services for children, low-income families, and those affected by substance abuse and mental illness.


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