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Marion, SC, July 30, 2019– The calendar may still be in July but the halls at the Academy of Early Learning are hearing echoes of tiny feet as twenty four-year-olds head to their classrooms.  “We are so excited to bring these students in to participate in some activities that will help prepare them for their first day of school,” states Principal Mrs. Farrah Owens. Owens and three of her teachers are working with Marion County School District’s earliest learners giving them four days’ worth of experiences to help them transition into Pre-school.  During the week they will concentrate on socialization skills such as practicing how to listen, speak, share and take turns.  They will also learn some of the basic processes of how to walk in line and walk in the hall. “Many of our students have never been exposed to a formal education setting before,” comments Owens. “The Jump Start program is all about filling that gap so when they do come to school on August 21st, they are better prepared.” This is the second year the school district has offered the Jump Start program. Superintendent Dr. Kandace Bethea is passionate about helping the four-year-olds get a good start to their education. “Targeting the youngest learners and helping them to achieve in their first year in school is the best strategy to closing the achievement gap,” states Bethea.