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Barrow Head Start begins its 30th year

POSTED: August 11, 2014 4:35 p.m.
Bonny Harper / For the Barrow County News/

The Barrow County Head Start program, now entering its 30th year and housed in a building on Maynard Street, began in 1984 in order to help serve 3- and 4-year-old Barrow County children from low-income families.

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The Barrow County Head Start learning program is celebrating its 30th anniversary this school year.

Margie Berry, center manager for Barrow’s Head Start since its beginning in August 1984, said Head Start offers “a comprehensive, holistic program for children and parents.”

“Over these past 30 years we have seen children and parent skills increase tremendously,” Berry said. “Children have become increasingly more prepared for school and parents for the workforce.”

For a child to enroll at Head Start, his or her family must meet federal income guidelines and the child must be 3 or 4 years of age and reside in Barrow County.

Berry said the program initiated because John Mobley and the late Don Hight—then Winder mayor and Barrow County Superintendent respectively—were approached by Action, Inc. (a community service organization) to establish a Head Start program in Barrow.

At the time, Berry was the lead teacher of the preschool special education program at the Barrow County Mental Retardation Center, but she said she saw a need for a program like Head Start in Barrow and agreed to bring it in.

Head Start, which currently has 109 children enrolled and employs 19 staff members, operates on the same school year as public schools in the county, Berry said, and incorporates learning objectives for the areas children will need to know when they begin school, such as letters, colors, shapes and socialization.

 “We get 3- and 4-year-olds, and some of them have never been away from Mom or Dad, and we’re their first school experience,” Berry said. “We want to make sure those children are school-ready.”

Berry said Head Start accomplishes this by employing the concept of “learning through play.”

The classrooms are set up into learning centers for subject areas such as science, library, blocks, housekeeping and art, as part of a created curriculum.

Head Start began with 40 children in 1984—20 at Statham Elementary School and 20 at Winder Elementary School. Several years later, after significant program growth, Berry said they acquired an additional classroom at Russell Middle School, increasing enrollment to 60 students.

Enrollment increased to 80 in 1990 as Head Start received an allotment of space in two double-wide trailers at Kennedy Elementary from Barrow County Schools, bringing the classroom count up to four, Berry said.

In 1998, after Head Start had become accredited with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (which Berry said very few programs were able to achieve while housed in trailers), Berry said she approached then Chairman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners Eddie Elder about a block grant for a Head Start building.

Barrow’s Head Start moved into its new building at 75 Maynard St. in 2002, Berry said, at which point the program had grown to six classrooms and 134 children.

“It is very obvious that our city officials, our school officials and our county officials have always been proactive when it concerns our children,” Berry said.

After the move to the new building, Berry said Head Start began providing opportunities for their employees and parents to go to school to acquire a Child Development Associate degree, if they did not have an Early Childhood Education degree.

Berry said the school hopes to increase its services and programs for adults in the coming years.

“We’re trying to get our adults trained and involved in schools so that they can be more productive in society,” Berry said.

In 2012, Head Start became reaccredited with the NAEYC, for which achievement a school must score above 80 in each of 10 program standards. Of these 10 standards, Berry said Head Start scored 100+ in five, 100 in four and 91 in the other.

Berry expressed thanks to her staff for the teamwork they “embraced” and the high standards they set for themselves, as well as to the Barrow County Board of Commissioners and city and school officials for all the efforts involved in making the first 29 years of Head Start “a great success.”

 

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