Some local children who attend preschool through Head Start, the children’s services program at Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County (CAC), will be able to return to the classroom starting on July 6.
CAC’s nearly 900 preschool children had to stop attending in-person class on March 13, when health orders forced the center’s various countywide preschools to close their doors.
But starting next month, the nonprofit will be able to reopen all 24 of its locations for students enrolled in its full-day program, CAC’s Child Services Director Lorraine Neenan said. By mid-August, the center hopes to have both full-day and part-day programs back to normal.
Neenan emphasized that Head Start’s services didn’t stop with the March 13 closure. In the interim, teachers and advocates continued working to provide educational materials for kids and support for parents.
“We touch base on a weekly basis with the parents, just to check in and see how their family is doing,” Head Start teacher Romanda Andrade said.
She and other teachers also created individualized learning packets for students that parents could come pick up or even get delivered to their homes.
Neenan explained that Head Start and CAC’s other child service programs are more than just a preschool—it’s a federally funded program for low-income families that goes beyond serving the kids.
In addition to providing their high-ranked preschool programs, CAC also employs advocates who check in with families on a weekly basis to provide referrals for everything from food services to domestic violence intervention. These services never stopped with the pandemic.
Starting July 6, each classroom will have half as many students per teacher, and all people entering the centers will first get their temperature screened with a no-touch infrared thermometer.
If all goes smoothly, Neenan said that part-time programs—which normally stop during the summer anyway—will open on schedule in mid-August.
Andrade said that whether kids are physically in the classroom or not, Head Start will always be there to support families so their children can keep learning.
“We know that if a child has to worry about their actual home’s basic needs, they’re not going to be present for learning,” she said. “We try to work with families and the communities to provide the support and education they need so they can get their basic needs met.”