As school districts scale back programs and lay off employees, one branch of education will be expanding.
Stanislaus County Office of Education officials hope to win millions of dollars in competitive grant money to broaden area Head Start programs. That means a job fair Saturday to recruit early education employees and get others on track to receive training.
The $2.1 billion in grant money up for grabs is funded through federal stimulus funds. Although education budgets are being slashed across the country, President Barack Obama and other politicians have made a financial commitment to providing more early education seats for children up to 5 years of age.
If they are awarded the grant, coordinators hope to open up space for 600 more Head Start students and hire 150 teachers, associate teachers, nurses, site supervisors, secretaries and family service workers.
More than 2,900 Stanislaus County children are enrolled in 56 Head Start programs.
Children from low-income families are eligible, and with the economy plunging, demand for Head Start has increased.
With school districts tightening their budgets through teacher layoffs, officials are hoping to place those unemployed teachers who qualify at Head Start sites.
Teaching young children is not for everyone, but Head Start officials said those educators who are patient and nurturing and interested in positions could obtain the training and credentials relatively quickly — within a few months, depending on their current training level.
"We already have sites in every (Stanislaus County) city and we already have administrators; the focus is on hiring site staff," said Deborah Clipper, executive director of child and family services at the county office of education.
There are three forms of Head Start:
- Early Head Start — for children younger than 3
The focus is on academics, but children also learn about nutrition, health, hygiene and social interaction. Head Start offers part-day or all-day programs for low-income children, with some education and counseling for parents and pregnant mothers.
"Research shows that ages 0 to 3 is a prime opportunity to impact brain development," said Cheryl Collins, a child development supervisor with the county office of education. "Brian neurons are growing at the most rapid rate. (Early learning) provides a better foundation for future learning and social-emotional skills."
Saturday's job fair is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center, 720 12th St., Modesto. For more information, call 238-1800.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.