March 10, 2006 – Head Start enrollment for pre-school age children for the 2006-07 school year is starting up.
Last year, more than 1,000 children across the territory benefited from Head Start's pre-school programs. Head Start pre-school programs help children prepare for school, assisting them with learning how to communicate, how to work in groups and more.
Though Head Start programs are available for children from birth to 5 years old, the majority of children in Head Start programs nationwide are pre-school age.
Head Start is a federal government sponsored early learning initiative geared at lower-income families.
"It's a fully comprehensive service, and we offer many services that private centers don't offer," said Shawn Miller, Head Start program coordinator for the St. Croix district. Those services include social services, health and nutrition services, education, mental health services and services for children with disabilities.
Ed Lind, Head Start program coordinator for the St. Thomas-St. John district, said at the start of the 2005 school year, that kindergarten teachers tell him that students who went through Head Start pre-school programs ask a lot of questions and want to touch everything. Lind said he thought that was a sign the program works.
The program is designed for low-income families, but Miller would not give a qualifying salary figure. For 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a family of two in the 48 contiguous states was $12,830, with 15 to 20 percent higher guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii. For a family of three, the guideline was $16,090.
In the Virgin Islands in 2004, the last for which statistics are available, funding was $7.9 million, according to the federal Head Start Bureau.
On St. Croix, Head Start programs enrolled close to 800 families for the 2005-06 school year.
On St. Thomas and St. John, Head Start registered 410 children for the same school year.
Nationwide, Head Start has assisted more than 23 million families since it started in 1965, including more than 850,000 in 2005.
Though this specific enrollment is for 3 and 4-year-old children, Head Start programs help children from birth through 5 years old as well as their parents.
The federal program is tax-payer funded to the tune of more than $6.6 billion a year. It is designed to give children from low-income families or other challenging situations a "head start" in school.
For more information and to apply for Head Start, call the Department of Human Services, Division of Pre-School Services on St. Thomas at 774-0930. On St. Croix, call 773-1972.
A Division of Pre-School Services staff member or a Head Start teacher can assist in filling out an application at any of the Head Start centers in the territory or at the Department of Human Services offices Monday through Friday.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.