The fenced-in playground is complete at the new Kansas Children’s Service League Head Start pre-school in Village Plaza in Liberal. Parents will drop off and pick up their children at this back gated enclosure, which sits on an alley to eliminate any through traffic concerns in the front parking area in the plaza. L&T photo/Larry Phillips
By KEELEY MOREE
• Leader & Times
Parents looking for early education opportunities for their children will be able to submit applications next week for Head Start preschool and USD No. 480’s pre-kindergarten programs.
According to USD 480 Student and Family Advocate Veronica Amador, the two programs have teamed up again to accept applications for the upcoming school year.
“Basically, Head Start keeps most of the 0- to 3-year-olds while USD 480 takes the 4-year-olds,” Amador said. “Both of them are by application process only, so that’s why we’re working together – we’re trying to make sure that we cover everybody without double-dipping in both programs so we can service more families.”
Both programs offer a morning or afternoon session and have a focus on serving families in need.
“Head Start is a more family-based organization and they have more services. It’s the whole family unit,” Amador said. “In pre-kindergarten, our purpose is to make sure that we service any children that are considered underprivileged. The point of it is to help those parents who might not have as much education who need help educating their children.”
While Head Start and pre-kindergarten both offer recess for students, the programs tie in more education than most day care alternatives have to offer.
“They are now doing more reading and writing. It’s become more of a kindergarten almost and they do have a curriculum to follow,” Amador explained. “There’s more activities, and it’s very education based.”
Amador went on to explain that underprivileged students, especially, are given a boost in their academic performance as a result of preschool education.
“There are several studies that show children that go to preschool tend to graduate and do better in school,” Amador said. “Let’s say the parents are uneducated. Our community has a lot of non-educated individuals, so if they don’t know how to read and write, how can they teach their preschooler the basics? That’s why we have it, so they’ll be a little more prepared for kindergarten.”
Because the State of Kansas does not mandate preschool education, Head Start and USD 480 receive grant money to cover a limited number of students. A new Head Start preschool in Liberal will soon serve 60 morning students and 60 afternoon students. USD 480’s pre-kindergarten program can accommodate 170 at-risk students and up to 100 spots for additional students and those with special needs. Each year, Amador said 30-40 students are placed on a waiting list for pre-kindergarten.
In an effort to serve students who need early education the most, applications for both Head Start and pre-kindergarten operate on a points system.
“The qualifications are broad, there’s quite a bit, and it’s based on their application,” Amador explained. “Some of it is income, some is parent education, some is parent age. It also depends on need, whether they’re in foster care or a homeless situation. It’s really broad, and there’s nothing very specific.
“A lot of parents think they won’t qualify because of their income. I encourage everyone to apply,” Amador added. “You won’t know if you don’t apply and sometimes you’ll be surprised by who qualifies and who doesn’t. If they really want their child in preschool, we always bring information on the other private preschools, which are also wonderful. If you can get your child into some type of program when they’re at least 4 years old to get socialization, I would encourage that as much as possible.”
Both Head Start and USD 480 pre-kindergarten offer free services, although USD 480 does charge an enrollment fee which some families may qualify to have removed.
Applications will be accepted Monday, March 4, at the Seward County Ag Building located at 1501 W. 8th St. Monday’s signups will follow a schedule based on the first letter of the student’s last name. Applications can also be received by appointment on Tuesday by calling Amador at (620) 604-1621.
“If they can’t make either of those days, then they can go to either the Newcomer Center or the Head Start center in Village Plaza,” Amador added.
Parents will need to bring their child’s birth record and proof of income in the form of three pay stubs or tax records for 2012. Students do not need to accompany their parent for the application process.