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Maricopa County Head Start program students to get more time in the classroom

Photo courtesy of Maricopa County Head Start

PHOENIX — Starting this school year, hundreds of preschool students will get more time to learn and prepare for kindergarten.

The Maricopa County Head Start program received a five-year, $13 million grant from the federal Head Start program.

Most of the money will allow the county-program to offer six-hour, five-day-a-week classes for preschool students. Before, the preschool students would attend either an morning or afternoon session for three-and-a-half hours a day, four days a week.

“We think we’re going to see really great outcomes for both children and parents,” said Alecia Jackson, Maricopa County Human Services Assistant Director of Early Education.

Jackson said children will benefit from having more time with teachers, allowing them to learn more before making the jump to kindergarten. It will also benefit preschoolers when it comes to nutrition during the day.

“We’re going to be able to provide two-thirds of a child’s daily nutrition needs in our Head Start classrooms,” Jackson said. “They’ll get breakfast, they’ll get lunch [and] they’ll get a snack. We think that’s really important for families in poverty, many who struggle with food insecurities.”

For parents looking to make a better live for themselves and their families, Jackson said the longer school day will give them more of a chance to do just that.

“[For] some of our families that want to go back to school, participate in a job training program or get a part time job, that three-and-a-half hour day just isn’t long enough,” Jackson said.

Those eligible for Head Start include children in foster care, families that receive public assistance and families with an income below 100 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Jackson said 80 percent of children in the Maricopa County Head Start program meet or exceed readiness goals needed for kindergarten.

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