School programs expecting preschool collaboration

GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Head Start program is looking at partnering with Gallia Local Schools to add preschool programs in each of the four county elementary schools.

Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center administers a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While operating the Head Start program in Meigs County the grant is also administered to help fund services for children in Gallia County. Nearly $2 million is contributed yearly to the programs.

“We are looking at an opportunity to collaborate with (Gallia Local Schools),” Rick Edwards, superintendent of AMESC, said. He stated that he and his colleagues believe, based on previous school year and graduation statistics with the county, there are nearly 400 potential preschool-aged children in the school district.

“When you enter the early-childhood (education) arena (in Gallia County), you have Head Start, preschools and church daycare or private preschool programs. We also think there are still a group of kids (in Gallia County) that don’t get early childhood experiences before coming to kindergarten and we need to fix that,” he said. “I know that from my experiences in the school district. That’s what this collaboration between the county schools and us should allow … additional opportunities for kids to get a preschool experience.”

Edwards said kindergarten for students now is similar to what first grade would have been for older adults when they were being schooled. Edwards noted that when he went to kindergarten, it was a half-day. Now, it is not uncommon for programs to be full days.

“Kindergartens in public schools expect kids to come in knowing their alphabet, numbers, colors and beginning their writing formation,” Edwards said. “It’s kind of like preschool or Head Start is now kindergarten in a kind of philosophy.”

Edwards said Gallia Local Schools and Head Start have been in talks to collaborate and help develop preschool programs in each of the four county elementary schools. He noted nothing has been finalized. The superintendent said his programs would help bring kids and staff to the table as part of the partnership. Staff from the Head Start programs are similarly trained to public school faculty.

Local Head Start programs are also looking at possibly moving up to full-day classes, with half-day classes still being available.

Dawn Hall, soon to become the new Head Start program director of Gallia County on July 1, said that children who fit low-income home standards can potentially attend the preschool programs for free.

The pair is hopeful the program plans can be implemented this coming school year.

“Head Start has been around in Gallia County since the 1960s. It started federally in the summer of 1965 as part of President Johnson’s war against poverty,” Hall said. “It started out as an eight-week pilot program. They were going to get kids in and fed and all this stuff as part of that movement. What started out as eight weeks has turned into something more 50 years later, having served 30 million children throughout the country.”

According to the Head Start federal website, “The Office of Head Start (OHS) promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through local programs. Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5.”

Edwards noted he and his colleagues’ sole concern was for the children of the county in hopes that they would all be afforded some sort of preschool education opportunity in the future.

Jude Meyers, Gallia Local Schools superintendent, was unavailable for comment at press time.

He was referenced in a previous Gallipolis Daily Tribune story that attempts were being made to instill a preschool program into Gallia Local Schools.

“We’ve got something pretty good. We think we’re great school for people and that we offer a lot,” Meyers said previously in the year.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.