Head Start debuts new building

-A A +A
By Sharon Graves

Carroll County has a new facility to further Head Start’s mission of helping lower income families pull themselves up through the education of their children by removing barriers that might keep them for that goal.

On Dec. 18, 2009, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Carroll County would receive a $2.12 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for an early infant head start facility. Director Pam McNeal showed off the nearly completed building Thursday night at the board of education meeting.  

“We are doing something no one else around here is doing,” McNeal explained.  “I truly believe this program can change lives.”

The federal grant will allow the program to provide educational, health, nutritional, social and family support services to 80 infants and toddlers, pregnant women and their families in Carroll County.

McNeal took the board of education on a tour of the new building showing off its  classrooms, kitchens and offices. The building boasts a new color scheme that begins at the new drop off area and is carried throughout. The building is connected to Kathryn Winn Primary by a long hallway with large square, circle and triangle shaped windows.

Classrooms for the various age groups are large and have connecting bathrooms. For infants there will be cribs, washers and dryers and their classroom connects with the kitchen for ease in warming bottles. 

The programs offered at the new facility are designed to make sure these children are kindergarten ready, McNeal said. She is intent on aligning the content of the Head Start program with the rest of the Carroll County schools. The school system has Vision 2021 goals that would assure that students are career, citizenship and college ready.  McNeal explained how that would be possible when dealing with preschoolers. 

Students will begin every day with the pledge of allegiance and they will have their own pledge stating they will be kind to each other. Students are encouraged to attend every day and they will also have a reading log to be used by their parents. 

Board member Carolyn Jones asked if there is much parent involvement. 

McNeal responded by saying they ask parents what they need and what would stop them from being involved and they try to fill those needs. 

“Parents need to give back,” Jones said.  “I am a big believer in that.”

When the funding for the new Early Head Start program was announced, officials said it would help provide many children with important opportunities.

“Providing all children with a happy, healthy start to life and a strong educational foundation is imperative for their success and for the future of the Commonwealth,” Beshear said in the original news release. “The expansion of Early Head Start programs in Carroll County will not only enable advanced opportunities for creative and innovative early childhood development, but programs that will strengthen families and enhance critical parent-child relationships.”

Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson said he believes “the program will have a significant impact on our young children and their families.  A strong and healthy start will enhance their skills and learning ability.”

Local officials did not have information to show the impact of Head Start programs on the county’s students.

McNeal said there is evidence on the internet to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the program. When pressed in an interview following the meeting, McNeal said Carroll County does not have data to prove the effectiveness of the program, but she believes it is effective. 

Pam Williams, elementary curriculum director for the district, also said she believes the program to be successful, but could not give any data to substantiate the claim. Williams and McNeal were able to give anecdotal evidence on the side of Head Start, but stated Carroll County does not track students that have been in Head Start to see if they have a higher number of graduates than those who have not participated in the program.

Financial status and disability of students are two of the criteria used to admit students into the program. While McNeal could not give numbers of how many work or are unemployed, she did say they do have parents who take classes and are also employed and there are parents who are not employed with children in the program. McNeal said it was too early in the school year to provide that information.

Williams and McNeal said they are always taking enrollment for the program and they are also required to have a waiting list.