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Carroll County’s early childhood program reached another major milestone on Monday, Oct. 10, when three- and four-year-old children began Head Start classes at the new Carroll County Child Development Center, located on the campus of Kathryn Winn Primary School.
“We’re finally all under one roof,” Pam McNeal, coordinator of Carroll County’s Head Start Programs, said. “I feel like we’ve been on a long journey for almost two years, and we’re 90 percent of the way home. The playground will be completed by Oct. 30, and we still have a hodgepodge of other little things to finish up.”
As part of the Carroll County School District’s grade realignment in the 2010-11 academic year, the Carroll County Head Start Program moved from Cartmell Elementary School to Winn Primary to join kindergarten, first, and second grades. The third grade, which had been located at Winn, moved to Cartmell to join the fourth and fifth grades.
To accommodate the changes, a major renovation and construction project helped transform Cartmell’s 48-year-old-building into a state-of-the-art facility.
Also, a $2.12 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Early Head Start Expansion Grant helped to fund the Carroll County Child Development Center.
The $1.806 million facility was funded by $1.31 million in school district funds and $496,000 in ARRA grant funds, according to Jon Conrad, chief financial officer of the Carroll County School District.
“We are a cohesive unit now,” McNeal said, referring to various staff members working out of different office spaces during the transition. “Our staff members are getting to know each other better now. It’s a better climate all around.”
The Carroll County Child Development Center can serve up to 211 children from the prenatal stages until they enter kindergarten, McNeal said. One hundred thirty-one are served through a combination of the federal Head Start Program and the Kentucky Education Reform Act Preschool Program. Through the Early Head Start Program, 40 children are served by nurturers visiting the children’s homes. Twenty-four children are served at the child development center, and 16 children receive a combination of home-based and center-based care.
McNeal said that there are still twelve openings available in the home-based option for children under the age of three who meet eligibility requirements.
“I can’t say enough about the home-based program,” McNeal said. “We’ve seen some very positive relationships develop between the nurturer and the families.”
With the home-based option, nurturers meet for 90 minutes a week with the child and his or her family and twice a month with other children in the home-based program for socialization activities.
McNeal said Head Start teachers had been delivering the program in the children’s homes since August because the child development center wasn’t yet finished; however, she believes those home visits are the reason that the first couple of days have gone so smoothly.
“We had very few three- and four-year-old children crying on the first day because they already knew their teachers and were comfortable with them,” McNeal said.
Lisa James, superintendent of Carroll County School District, sees the opening of the Carroll County Child Development Center as completion of one of her long-term goals, going back to when she served at instructional supervisor of the Carroll County School District and when Pam Williams, the current elementary instructional supervisor, was the Head Start Coordinator.
“For more than five years, a team of dedicated people have been working to address the need for quality early childhood education in Carroll County,” James said. “Even before there was a grant opportunity, we were saving funds, collecting data, and dreaming of ways to make this happen. This child development center is literally a dream come true that will benefit Carroll County for years to come.”
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.