Head Start: Expanded hours will help youngsters prepare for school

PEYTON NEELY The Marietta Times Roman Hardie, 4, makes letters out of popsicle sticks with classmates Tucker Frick, 4, and Dylan Coombs, 5, during class on Monday at the Jane Edwards Head Start Center in Marietta.

To further enhance kindergarten readiness in preschoolers, Washington-Morgan Community Action’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs will extend their hours in August thanks to receiving an additional $267,000 in federal funds.

Expanded hours will be offered at the Belpre Head Start site and the New Matamoras Early Learning Center site.

Head Start currently receives $2,336,241 in federal funds. The total budget is $2,920,302 including the non-federal share.

“It’s rare to see this big of an increase in our funding,” said Rachel Shipley, director of Head Start and Early Head Start. “Research shows that the longer children spend in a classroom, the higher the educational outcome. Belpre will be getting a second classroom and New Matamoras has some minor improvements to be made.”

Instead of options of six hours of classes each day or 3.5 hours each day, both will offer seven hours as the only option.

Shipley said the New Matamoras site has already began its seven hours of classes and Belpre classes will go to seven hours beginning in August.

“Both districts are great partners with us. We decided these areas needed a bigger focus based on the state report cards,” she said. “The enrollment won’t be changing but we plan to hire additional help.”

With Belpre Head Start receiving an additional classroom, three teachers will be hired before August. Currently, the Head Start program employs between 55 and 60 employees.

Head Start is a free preschool for eligible families that meet 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. It specializes in the educational and social development of young children ages 3 to 5 years old.

Currently there are 196 students in the five Head Start Locations in Washington County and Morgan counties. Thirty-four students are at the Belpre Head Start site, 17 students are enrolled in New Matamoras Early Learning Center, 17 students are enrolled in the Washington County Early Learning Center at Ewing School, 20 students are enrolled at Play and Learn in Malta and 100 students are enrolled at the Jane Edwards Head Start Center in Marietta including eight toddlers in Early Head Start.

The sites in Malta and Ewing School hold a waiting list for eligible families and according to Shipley each site has a waiting list for families over the income guidelines. Head Start programs can only enroll 10 percent of those families.

“We do have openings in Marietta and Belpre for eligible families,” she said. “They must meet the federal poverty guidelines or be considered homeless or are receiving government assistance.”

Head Start conducted its own research using a review of data from the 2015-2016 Head Start program year based on six categories: social and emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. Studies showed that students spending 3.5 hours in class scored 61.8 fewer points than those who spent seven hours in the classroom.

“Based on our own data, more time means higher achievement and more kindergarten-ready students,” said Shipley. “This will mean that we will be sending more prepared students into the school systems without needing much to catch up on.”

Students spending the additional three hours in the classroom are more prepared for kindergarten by 9.4 percent, according to a local study conducted at all the Head Start sites. The current hours per year for services is 448 hours, translating to 32 weeks. With the increase in funding, 1,020 hours, or 36 weeks, will be available for students beginning with the new school year.

Each site is open from Monday to Thursday except for Ewing School which is open from Tuesday to Friday. Each site currently offers six-hour classes in addition to the 3.5-hour classes. Shipley said that restructuring would need to be done before making the change to all the sites in the area.

Two weeks will be added to the beginning and end of the academic calendar.

“We tried to match our calendars up with the calendars of each school district,” said Shipley. “If we received additional funding, we’d like to do this at all the Head Start sites.”

Parents Matt and Claudia Rogers said they feel such an expansion would only improve the skills of their 4-year-old daughter, Chloe, who is enrolled at the The Jane Edwards Head Start Center in Marietta.

“Three hours is just inefficient for the kids but seven hours is perfect,” said Matt. “It’s also great for the parents who can manage a seven-hour window versus a three-hour window.”

Claudia moved to America from Romania 12 years ago and said she feels blessed her daughter has this opportunity.

“I took my daughter to the doctor the other day and he asked her to draw a picture for him and I just couldn’t believe how much her artistic abilities have improved since she’s been here,” she said. “To be able to give Chloe an opportunity like this is just a blessing.”

Sarah Daugherty, mother of 4-year-old Mason, a student at the Jane Edwards Head Start Center, said that preschool has helped him come out of his shell.

“He loves coming here and has learned so much,” she said. “He’s opened up so much more.”

Roman Hardie, 4, a preschooler at the Marietta site, said he loves his teachers and playing with his friend Tucker Frick, 4.

“My friends come here,” he said. “Seeing my friends is fun.”

The expansion is beneficial among employees.

“Most of our employees draw out unemployment during the summertime when they’re laid off,” said Shipley. “Now they will be getting almost another whole month of pay.”

Katie Garner, teaching assistant at the Marietta site, said that allowing the students to have the services offered at Head Start longer will be better for the long run.

“Expanding our hours exposes the kids to our teaching services longer,” she said. “Any needs like meals, socialization, play time, will be there for them while they’re in our care.”


At a glance

¯Head Start and Early Head Start are pre-school programs offered by Washington-Morgan Community Action.

¯Beginning in August, hours will be expanded from three hours a day to seven at Belpre Head Start and New Matamoras Early Learning Center.

¯The year is also expanding from 32 weeks a year to 36.

¯This is due to an additional $267,000 in federal funds granted to the program.

¯Currently, Belpre serves 34 students and New Matamoras has 17.

Source: Rachel Shipley.