By Mrinal Gokhale
The Todd Wehr Malaika Early Learning Center has officially expanded to include first, second and third grade by 2019. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place on April 6 at 9:45 a.m. to celebrate this expansion.
Tamara Johnson, Malaika’s executive director, said she has wanted this expansion for a while, and was able to present the idea about a year and a half ago. New classrooms have now been implemented over a seven month construction period.
They added a first grade class for the 2015-2016 academic year, Johnson said, and there are currently two more newly constructed classrooms sitting empty, which will be used for second and third grade.
“Next year, we’ll add second grade, and then third grade by 2019,” said Johnson. “We not only want our children to be smart, but for them to make good social decisions as well.”
The Malaika Early Learning Center is nonprofit charter school which has served children from six weeks old up to kindergarten since 2003. This building is located on 125 W. Auer Street in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood, a mostly African American area.
Before the ribbon cutting, Johnson spoke about the decision to expand, emphasizing the importance of children being allowed to stay a little longer at the school they’ve known since they were babies.
“We were pretty much cutting them off at five years old before, saying ‘hey, good luck out there,’” said Johnson. “As children’s families are able to provide consistent, quality care and education until age eight, it increases their chances of success in life and in school.”
Johnson said many have asked her how this charter school performs compared to public schools. She feels they do a good job of teaching children social and academic skills at a young age.
“We are a private Milwaukee Parental Choice Program charter school and our achievement is actually better than some public schools,” she said. Soua Lor, an intern at Malaika, also feels it’s important to expand the school to allow children to stay longer. She views the early learning center as a “neighborhood school” because most children who attend live in the Harambee neighborhood or Milwaukee’s north side.
“The children receive free transportation, our lead teachers are DPI certified and we maintain a 4:1 teacher to child ratio for our infants,” she said.
“Many of these children have been here since birth. I think any school wants their children to stay as long as possible to keep families together. Once they’re done here, they can transfer to another school for fourth grade.”
Visit www.malaikaelc.com for more information on the early learning center.