Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Head Start seeks our support

By Elizabeth Morgan

Lewis Clark Early Childhood Program (LCECP) has been serving the community of Orofino for over 20 years. Presently, a group of devoted community members who call themselves Friends of LCECP Orofino Head Start Project are asking the community for support in raising $30,000 to be eligible for other grants needed to purchase and place a classroom on the elementary school site.

LCECP has applied for a supplemental funding grant from Head Start to cover the site development costs associated with development of the center including the playground and parking areas. It is hoped to bring the project to the school site within the next year.

Friends of LCECP strive to raise $30,000 from the Orofino business and private communities. The remainder of the $91,000 is to be earned through private grants and foundations.

Years of monitoring and research confirm that children who attend the Head Start program, have immediate positive effects on cognitive and social/emotional development. In addition, it was discovered that there was significant influence on the health of the child as well as his/her family. This typically improves the entire family’s emotional and economic social status, which in turn benefits the community.

Head Start’s present location is on the county’s road maintenance complex. Immediately behind their playground, heavy equipment travels back and forth, through a parking lot that floods during the storm season. Costs for ongoing maintenance for flooding and dated heating cut deeply into a budget that is already stretched to afford only the absolute necessities.

The building is small, and is not in compliance with the American Disabilities Act, Classroom size may accommodate no more than 14 children at a time and lacks space for supplies.

The center’s size and location limits activities, access, class size and instruction, and presents numerous safety issues of serious concern. Besides being located somewhat inconveniently in an industrial area, there is no connectivity to other education programs or schools.

In the past, the school district has absorbed the cost of transporting students who qualify for Head Start services to and from Orofino Elementary School.

Keeping the kids on school grounds will save money and provide less interruption to their school day. The transition from Pre-School to Kindergarten is made easier, less intimidating because the child is more comfortable and familiar with their surroundings.

Moving the Head Start to OES would allow children to attend preschool in a high quality modular classroom manufactured by Northwest Building Systems in Boise. large enough to accommodate an office separate from the classroom. The building would not interfere with the additional parking area that OES intended to create. The new location will create a seamless unison between Head Start and OES.

Clearwater County is one of the most economically depressed counties in Idaho, with over 36% of children aged 0-4, living in poverty.

Parent intensive programs such as Head Start draw parents to school early in the child’s academic career, promoting greater participation as the child progresses through grade school and beyond.

Research indicates: “Parent involvement promotes a healthy and consistent learning environment by establishing mutual goals between parents and educators and developing activities that bridge home and school.” (Christenson, S.L.; 1995).

Furthermore, children who attend Head Start earn significantly more than their siblings who did not attend preschool. Those that attended Head Start are nearly 30% more likely to have completed high school than their siblings and are more likely to attend college, less likely to be assigned to special education classes; and less likely to commit crimes. It is estimated that society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every dollar invested in Head Start children.

Joint School District #171 Superintendent, Bob Vian believes the program will benefit both students and community. He fully supports the efforts of Friends of Lewis Clark Early Childhood Program to find a way to move the current facility to the Orofino Elementary School grounds.

Seeking additional funds from the community for education is a sensitive issue, especially in light of the school district requesting and receiving the supplemental levy which passed in May. But there is much taking place within the district to maximize the quality of education available for our children. As a former teacher, I see many wheels in motion that will encourage lifelong learning and well being throughout the community. The education our children receive will be relevant to the needs of tomorrow, and become more efficient as the district’s future goals are realized.

Friends of LCECP are planning a bake sale for starters on Friday, Aug. 2. The time and location has yet to be announced. Watch for details in next week’s Clearwater Tribune. Please show your support; Head Start works, and our children deserve whatever it takes.

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