Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Head Start/Early Head Start students and families began the school year on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with the same mission to provide quality preschool education, and its staff with an intense commitment to provide programming in various platforms and approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through Friday, Oct. 2, the Head Start teaching staff is conducting services such as developmental and social emotional screenings, transportation and pedestrian safety, and health information, via telephone, email and families picking up activities and materials from their centers, according to Carolyn Jason, interim program director.
“The teaching staff will also interact with families through the use of Zoom meetings and FaceTime,” said Lisa Tate, assistant program director/center operations. “All families will be provided with an SIUE-issued iPad. We expect the iPads to be delivered in a few weeks.
“Once the iPads arrive, we will distribute them to our families. The program’s plan is to phase in our in-person services in October, which will enable us to use a hybrid approach (in-person and virtual) to provide instructional services to all.”
The centers will let families know which students will receive in-person learning and which will be selected for virtual learning. No more than 10 Head Start students and four Early Head Start students will be allowed in a classroom at a time with at least two teaching staff assigned to each room. Virtual learning sessions with iPads will be based on the time availability of the families, the age of the child and will last no longer than 10-15 minutes per session, explained Tate.
“The teaching staff will implement the Creative Curriculum CLOUD for Infants, Toddlers, Twos & Preschoolers,” added Tate. “Home visitors will continue to implement the Parents as Teachers curriculum for Head Start and Early Head Start children, and the Baby Basics curriculum for expectant mothers.”
“Head Start and Early Head Start has been providing sack meals since Sept. 8 that include lunch and a snack,” said Jason. “Weekly lunches are delivered to the centers, and families are asked to pick them up.”
“For several months, The SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Re-Opening Committee, led by Denise Brown, health services program coordinator, convened to discuss and develop a plan with health and safety as priority one,” continued Jason. “The committee utilized best practices and ever-changing safety protocols from multiple entities including, the Centers for Disease Control, Restore Illinois, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Occupational Health and Safety, and SIUE COVID-19 guidelines.
“Overall, our final plan addresses the safety of staff, students and families, as our staff provides essential services to foster school readiness.”
The SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program serves more than 860 families and children birth through age five, including children with special needs, throughout St. Clair County. The program also provides services to expectant mothers. The program is housed in 12 early childhood centers, seven managed directly by SIUE staff and five collaborations. The program includes a rigorous school readiness program and provides comprehensive services, such as health/ dental screenings and family engagement and support activities.
Kristin Moore, SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start home visitor, conducts an Ages and Stages questionnaire with a family member.