WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley Community Local Schools will be implementing a Head Start unit for the 2017-2018 school year. TVS Superintendent Bob Fischer hopes the upcoming program will help reach younger kids who are below the poverty line.
Head Start is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services which provides early childhood education, health, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The age of enrollment is between three and four years of age. For the Early Head Start program, the age of enrollment is from six weeks of birth to two years old.
The program provides free learning and development services to children ages birth to five and pregnant women from low income families. The local Head Start or Early Head Start program determines eligibility. Children from homeless families and families receiving public assistance such as TANF or SSI are also eligible.
Head Start gets its support through federal funding. The United States Congress authorizes the amount of federal spending for Head Start each year. The program is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The programs in Preble County are managed through Butler County Educational Service Center (BCESC). Their goal is to “increase school readiness and social competence of young children.” There are active programs at Camden Primary, Hollingsworth-East Elementary, Lewisburg United Methodist Church, National Trail, and the Preble County Education Service Center.
Superintendent Fischer came up with the idea of a Head Start unit after talking to elementary staff. He said, “When I came to South last year, I spent a lot of the beginning of my time talking to teachers. During the months of April and March, we took different groups of teachers aside and talked with them a little bit about concerns and things that they wanted to see added or improved.
“One of the conversations that came out of speaking with our elementary staff and principal was a need to get our kids in sooner. We have had a Pre-K classroom, that is still currently in our building. It just was not getting enough of our kids in. We were seeing as kids were coming in to kindergarten — not all kids being ready to read, and not being up to the standards we need just because of the dynamics that have changed with the families.
“I saw this as an opportunity, because we did have an additional class space down in our elementary. I thought, this is an opportunity to find another way to reach out to our community, to get kids to come in, and to get families to come in to our school at an earlier age than what we were seeing them.”
The difference between the current Pre-K classroom and the upcoming Head Start unit is the focus on those children below the poverty line.
“The biggest difference in this is, it is going to allow more kids an opportunity to come in that may not necessarily be able to afford the regular preschool classroom,” Fischer added.
He noted, the biggest benefit to having a Head Start unit at TVS is the opportunity to have more kids come to school sooner.
“We are going to be opening up the possibility of having up to 16 to 18 additional slots for children,” he said. “Currently, through our ESC program we have two half-day programs, each one can only see 16 students. This is going to allow an opportunity for 16 more kids to gain early learning.”
The services for the TVS unit of Head Start will all be provided by BCESC. They will bring in the teacher and staff, while TVS is responsible for the classroom space and the students.
He added, “It’s been a great experience [working with BCESC]. This is my first year as a superintendent working with them, but I have had four previous years when I was at National Trail. We did some curriculum things, some training through them periodically. I’ve had a great relationship with them. They are definitely there for kids and have a lot of great resources and services that they can offer.”
As for the response to the upcoming program, Fischer said they are starting to spread the news to the community, but the response from the staff has been positive. “From our staff, from what I’ve been told, they’re very excited about being able to bring another opportunity in. This is something that they’ve wanted and something we were able to accommodate and do,” he said.
To spread the news to the community, TVS plans to utilize social media (specifically Facebook). They are also holding a kindergarten spaghetti dinner on Thursday, April 6. Both the Head Start and Preschool programs will be at that event to promote. The TVS Preble County Success Liaison will also help reach out to local families who might benefit from the program.
“We want to make sure we communicate as much as possible,” Fischer said. “We will be sending out flyers to our community areas, letting our churches know, so they can post on their bulletins, and notify our local organizations — our Kiwanis, our Lions Club — those community groups. We’re going to inundate them with as much information as we can, so that they know what’s going on.”
In conclusion, Fischer said, “We’re excited because it’s another opportunity. The more opportunities we can create for our families to gain that early learning, the better off our school is going to be in the long run.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH