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Partnership will benefit preschoolers

| June 8, 2010 9:00 PM

A partnership between the Coeur d'Alene School District and Head Start will bring more services to a group of preschoolers this fall.

Twenty-eight children, who normally would be either in the district's developmental preschool or in North Idaho Head Start, will be served by the two agencies at one location, the Harding Family Center.

The strength of the Head Start program is small-sized classes served by a teacher and an assistant, plus a strong parent component that includes family nights and family goal-setting. Head Start also has two AmeriCorps workers who help families connect to health, mental health and other community resources.

The school district has a cadre of specialists in speech and language, psychology, and occupational and physical therapy to meet the needs of children with developmental delays. These services will be available to support the Head Start staff.

Both Head Start and the developmental preschool are federal programs that use the same curriculum and have similar guidelines to ensure children's specific needs are met.

"This is unique in how we will deliver services to families," said Head Start Director Beth Ann Fuller. She said it may become a model for other districts.

District Liaison Regina Ochs said the arrangement will offer some new services to families formerly served in the Fernan preschool.

Both said it is a perfect choice for families with a child who qualifies for Head Start and an individualized education plan (IEP).

Frances Huffman, director of special services for the Coeur d'Alene School District, agreed. "This provides an opportunity for both groups to benefit from the strengths of each other," she said.

Jessica Rankin's son, Anthony, who has been at the district preschool at Fernan for three years, is one of eight children who were in a pilot program this year for the new arrangement. She said she is enthusiastic about the partnership because Anthony, an amputee, will be getting additional services to better prepare him for his transition to kindergarten.

Two morning and two afternoon sessions will be offered four days a week. Anyone needing more information may call Head Start at 666-6755.

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