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Giving Kids A Head Start

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Some west Tulsa kids are spending the rest of this hot summer in a cool classroom. School is already in session at year-round Mark Twain Elementary. There's a lot more going on inside than just your typical kindergarten through 5th grade.

As reporter News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin explains, Tulsa educators are trying to build a love of learning throughout the community.

Mark Twain students start the year a little earlier and get out later. They still have a few weeks of vacation. Mark Twain's principal Diane Hensley: "So it's plenty of time for them to play and get bored and then they're right back in school and ready to go."

But teachers say the extra classroom time makes a big difference in their education. It's a difference they're trying to extend to students' home life as well, encouraging every family to set high expectations for their kids. That's why Mark Twain is not just a school, it's a community center with free services including a clinic, after school tutoring even extended learning programs for adults. Diane Hensley: "All of these things are within walking distance for every family in our school. So there's no excuse for families not to have the services that we have set up."

Hensley says the students come from a disadvantaged neighborhood. The area doesn't have a public library, so the school provides that too. "Families can come to school from 3 to 4:30 and bring their toddlers, check out books and also work on the Internet and technology that they may not have available in their home."

They also have a 4-year old Headstart room. Educators now want to reach an even younger group, getting kids excited about learning as early as possible. This year, that room will be filled with 3-year-olds in a first-of-its-kind Headstart program in the area.

All age levels attend a full day schedule so children feel at home at school.
Diane Hensley: "We wanted to make sure that all children in Tulsa have the same playing field, so we make sure these programs are available to all of them."

Mark Twain is still enrolling 3 year olds.
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