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Mel Gravely

What to Expect this Upcoming Program Year (2020-2021)

At the end of last spring’s program year the country shut down based on expert advice on public health and safety. Programs moved to a virtual format and classrooms cleared out, but this did not mean that Head Start programs closed. Despite the dramatic change in procedures that the emergency inflicted, staff adapted and continued to provide families with food, educational supplies such as electronic devices and mobile hot spots, and materials in order to access remote learning experiences.

With the beginning of a new program year, all Head Start and Early Head Start programs are getting ready for the next set of challenges ahead. Although many things have changed, the energy with how you approach and provide educational services to help children be ready for school will stay the same. To summarize with a statement made by the director of the Office of Head Start, Dr. Deborah Bergeron, “Head Start and Early Head Start programs are open!”

Some of the vital aspects of your program that should not change, as outlined by Dr. Bergeron in recent letter, Looking Forward to the 2020–2021 Program Year.

“The models are different,” Dr. Bergeron writes, “but our efforts to meet the needs of children and families are the same.”

Some examples she gives are:

“Every parent or guardian has the chance to tell us about their dream for their child, their concerns, and the child’s interests and strengths,” she writes. “Teaching staff individualize the curriculum to meet children’s needs and continue to assess progress and improve teaching and learning.”

“Programs establish partnerships with parents, and parents receive the necessary support to reach their goals and the goals for their children. Staff support parents or guardians to make sure children’s health, nutrition, mental health, and oral health needs are met.“

“Involvement in the Head Start program offers parents opportunities that help them thrive, such as leadership, education, and social services.”

Every Head Start program is open, whether it’s providing in-person services in classrooms, outside or on porches, or serving families and children remotely, or even a combination. With these new sets of challenges this program year, all staff will need to bring an incredible amount of energy, patience, creativity, expertise, and compassion in order to continue serving their community in the best way possible. The Office of Head Start has made detailed flexibilities to programs publicly available. Creative solutions will be of utmost importance in ensuring programs meet the needs of their children and families.

There is a wealth of resources available to you to help your program in reopening during the pandemic on ECKLC’s OHS Covid-19 Updates. The Office of Head Start’s recent webinar series focusing on practical matters to support program planning and decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know the Head Start staff has what it takes to continue providing excellent service, and greatly improving the lives and opportunities for families and children in your communities. Keep up the great work that you do!

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