Delta County Joint School District #50 has assumed operation of the Head Start program in Delta County and has opened a Backpack Early Learning Academy (BELA) preschool in Cedaredge, enhancing the school district's ability to meet the needs of every preschool child in Delta County.
Angela Fedler, director of the Delta Family Center, said the ultimate goal is to facilitate the smoothest transition possible to kindergarten. The Delta Family Center oversees the preschools, as well as the district's Backpack program.
Also new this year is an all-day preschool option.
"Any parent can apply for all-day preschool," Fedler said. "However, the largest portion of those all-day slots are funded through Head Start, so families will need to qualify." Income is a primary consideration, but other family dynamics, such as the language spoken in the home, also come in to play. Fedler explained, "If English is not a child's primary language, there's more reason for a child to come to preschool earlier, because we want to help them feel comfortable and succeed in elementary school."
Preschool is not mandatory, but the school district wants to make sure every student has that opportunity by operating BELA preschools in every community in Delta County. "We're going to see the best success for students in high school careers if they've had some kind of preschool exposure before they enter elementary school," Fedler said.
She estimates about 80 percent of the county's 3- and 4-year-olds are attending either BELA or a private preschool. The newest BELA program in Delta County occupies a remodeled classroom at Cedaredge Elementary School.
"We're hitting the ground running in Cedaredge with up to 30 children, 15 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon sessions," she said. Lead teacher Kaylee Davis and co-teacher Bobbie Terry are experienced BELA instructors who are very familiar with the BELA philosophy. They've gotten great support from CES principal Daniel Renfrow and assistant principal Sissily Brown, Fedler said.
Cedaredge's Little Sprouts Preschool remains in operation and is a strong partner in early childhood education. Fedler said the two preschools are planning some joint professional development opportunities.
Preschool programs have a variety of local, state and federal funding sources. It's up to Fedler to allocate resources in a way that best supports families and kids.
"We want to get the word out there we want to be that single stop for families," Fedler said. The Family Resource Center offers enrichment activities, parent groups, play groups, developmental screenings for children, family literacy programs, and resource and referral services.
"We can't always give families exactly what they need when they walk in the door, but we want to help them make the connections with those who can," Fedler said. "And if community members have something amazing they're doing for families and kids, let us know so we can help promote those supports in the community. If I have one dream in the world, it's that people realize how important families are. If we can help families thrive, we can have an amazing community."
The Delta Family Center is located at 822 Grand Avenue, on the Delta Middle School campus.