COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Summer Programming

Boy hanging from monkey bars with teacher's assistantPreparing for Kindergarten Over the Summer

Columbia Child Development Program, Bloomsburg, PA

CCDP Head Start was able to provide a high quality virtual educational experience for 12 of our children who will be attending kindergarten in the fall, thanks to funding from CRRSA. This “virtual summer program” was so much more than attending weekly Zoom sessions three days a week with their teacher Kim. It also provided a once a week in-person home visit with Kim, a socialization day at the park, and a build a backpack program. The summer program was well attended by all of the families who were involved. This is a true testament to the amount of relationship building that was done before the program even began. The virtual Zoom sessions were extremely interactive and built on the children’s previous knowledge as well as teaching them new skills to prepare them for kindergarten. Supplies were given to families ahead of the Zoom sessions so the children could participate in the hands on learning activities that were provided by Kim. The in-person socialization days at the park not only offered more educational activities and skill building, but gave the parents the opportunity to lead those activities and network with other parents. The families received a backpack at the beginning of the summer and a school supply for every week they attended the program. The family service worker and substitute teacher made sure the summer program went off without a hitch and helped Kim and the families throughout the 8 week program. These children will definitely be ready for kindergarten with their filled backpacks and wealth of knowledge and skills they received from attending the virtual summer program.

Head Start Teachers Collaborate with Kindergarten Teachers

Montebello Unified School District's Head Start Program, Pico Rivera, California

With the help of COVID funds, Montebello Unified School District's Head Start Program was able to participate in a summer collaboration between Head Start teachers and kindergarten teachers to provide instruction to students transitioning to kindergarten in the Fall. We have completed two summer school sessions and have learned a lot from each of the groups and how we can continue to collaborate throughout the school year as we have a common goal, helping students succeed in their educational journey.

The instruction has been done virtually, as we began this work during the pandemic as a way to help those students moving to a kindergarten class with a more rigorous curriculum be prepared but also to provide additional opportunities for learning and feel confident about their skills. The students participate in the virtual instruction for 2.5 hours and follow a consistent schedule and are also divided into small groups to work with each teacher and a smaller group of students during the week.

Head Start teachers focused on social emotional skills and language development, and kindergarten teachers focused on math development and emergent writing during these sessions. In addition to the teachers, we had an assigned Education Specialist providing support with implementing the curriculum, coaching, and overseeing the success of these classes.

We would like to see this collaboration continue now that we are moving back to in-person instruction. The virtual environment helped us develop strategies that can continue being implemented to strengthen our work with children, but we also know that the physical space and students being able to learn from hands on experiences is key to their success.

Learning Through Camping

Jefferson-Clarion Head Start, Inc., Brookville, PA

Jefferson-Clarion Head Start, Inc. was excited to use its Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) funds to provide a two-week summer program for our children 3-5 years old, and we were able to operate six classrooms . We chose "camping" as our theme for our Head Start summer program. The children received books related to camping to add to their libraries at home. One teacher wrote about their experience: "The kids enjoyed listening to and interacting with the books, learning about camping, “camping” in the dramatic play center, going on a nature hunt outside, and “fishing” in the water table. We worked on rhyming, writing names, counting, letter and number identification. We rode bikes, ran obstacle courses in the gym, played hop scotch, played catch, and drew with side walk chalk outside. They also enjoyed the camp treats that we had for snack. They got to try new things they hadn’t eaten before. We worked on our listening skills, rule following, getting along with others, sharing, taking turns, raising our hands during large group times, and building relationships. We had a great two weeks together! I am glad that I got to be a part of it!"

Our Early Head Start program ran a three-day camp for Early Head Start children that will be transitioning to Head Start in the fall of 2021. Children received books about going to go to preschool and backpacks with preschool supplies. While the EHS children were in class, the parents attended trainings around pre-school readiness and self-care and wellness.

Our families appreciated the opportunity for their children to receive additional Head Start and Early Head Start services over the summer.

ARP Funding Created Opportunities at Two Head Start Centers

Children & Families First Head Start, Milton, DE

COVID funds helped Children & Families First (CFF) in Delaware operate a 4-week summer program in July 2021 focused on rising kindergarteners at two Head Start Centers: Dunbar and Smyrna Head Start.

The summer program at the Dunbar Head Start Center was a remarkable success! The total summer enrollment at this center was 20 Head Start children. The teachers implemented engaging activities and lessons which allowed the children to participate in choice activities, explore their letters, shapes, and numbers.

The summer program at the Smyrna Head Start Center was a wonderful experience for the children and staff as well. Two Head Start classrooms offered services with a total number of 30 Head Start children.

The Head Start children were glowing with excitement upon entering their classroom on the first day of the summer program. Most children only experienced a virtual/remote classroom earlier in the year and seemed excited to be able to attend an in-person classroom to join the summer fun!

Although we operated with many COVID-19 safety precautions, the children were able to enhance the following educational skills: Social, Emotional and Cognitive skills, names, and letter recognition, writing, shapes, and colors. Head Start children also had the opportunity to make decisions and play with new peers. Another rewarding experience for Head Start children was being able to ride the school bus for the first time. During the 4-week summer program the children gained wonderful experiences and skills that will better prepare them for their ultimate journey to kindergarten.

Summer Booster Program Success

The Children’s Center, Franklin, VA

Zeke walked out of the Children’s Center with a backpack, ready to go to kindergarten! How? Because the Children’s Center’s Head Start program prioritized American Rescue Plan dollars, so generously given, to making an investment in the future of Head Start’s rising kindergartners.

Zeke’s family chose to receive virtual Head Start services for the 20-21 school year. Fear of COVID and its devastating effects led them to choose that option for Zeke over the center-based option. That choice was a comfortable one for them. As the year came to a close, Zeke’s Family Advocate worked with his parents to address their fears and promoted the Head Start’s accelerated “booster program” established ARP funds for those entering kindergarten. Zeke struggled with group settings, routines, transitions, and self-regulation skills needed for kindergarten success. With support, he enrolled in Head Start summer school for four weeks with rising kindergartners and those with IEPs to bridge their summers with enrichment, fun, and learning. He was assigned a classroom mental health support team member to encourage his success. She worked with him on expanding his play options to include not only Legos, but also other toys. Her work with him on language led him to use names to play with friends and to become actively involved in Circle Time. Strategies were implemented to give him ways to calm himself and make choices for his energy versus letting it control him. His words were “I’m done with break and want to go back and join circle.” Using those words will be an amazing asset to his success in kindergarten. His entire team worked with dedicated devotion to give him a great Head Start.

Giving Zeke and every other rising kindergartner a chance to succeed was a vision made possible by the American Rescue Plan dollars. We are so thankful.

An Opportunity for Extra Love and Connection

Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency (SENDCAA), Fargo, ND

This Head Start program was so excited to use its Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) funds to organize a summer program for children transitioning to kindergarten and children who have special needs. SENDCAA spent the month of June focused on offering extra love and connection, enjoying the beautiful summer days in North Dakota, and working hard to continue providing an environment full of learning opportunities. Teachers provided activities to continue supporting children in developing social, emotional, mathematics, and literacy skills. Children were able to go on field trips, run and play outside, and most importantly, have one extra month to fill their bellies full of delicious meals and get some extra love from their teachers.

On June 30, 2021, SENDCAA waved goodbye and hugged the kids tight because many of them are venturing off to kindergarten. The program was so glad they received the additional funding and support to provide this wonderful opportunity to children and staff.

Summer Programming – A Dream Come True!

Wyoming Child & Family Services, Inc. (WCFD), Guernsey, WY

WCFD was beyond thrilled when the additional COVID-19 funding was made available to Head Start programs across the nation. The opportunity to make a big difference through summer programming was a dream come true for the Torrington service area. For years, the program had identified a need to serve children ages 3–5 year-round. The challenge was where to get the funding without expansion dollars.

WCFD is now providing a summer program at its Torrington location for 3- to 5-year-olds. This timing of being able to meet critical family need during a time of such chaos, confusion, and uncertainty has immeasurable value. The difference in offering high-quality Head Start programming year-round  has already proven to be an incredible success. WCFD has worked with the additional COVID-19 funding to not only offer this outstanding opportunity for the summer of 2021 but also for 2022.

WCFD has also been able to add a critical mental health component to support staff, children, and families during the pandemic through counseling and personal wellness programs. The additional dollars offered to Head Start programs are being put to use in incredible ways that will make a positive difference now and in the future. WCFD is eternally grateful to see their already high-quality programming rise to new levels.

Summer Cohort for Vulnerable and Transitioning Children

Northern Montana Child Development Center (NMCDC), Havre, MT

NMCDC has been diligently working to provide extra support to its most vulnerable students through a summer cohort. With the American Rescue Plan funding, NMCDC has provided extended educational, nutritional, health, and family engagement services to 16 children. Each child was picked due to special needs, such as an Individualized Education Program, or their upcoming transition into kindergarten. This has allowed each child to better understand their own emotions, as well as the best ways to socially interact with their peers. They have been given a unique opportunity to learn and better prepare for the transition into kindergarten, as well as a safe, healthy place to grow.