ANNAPOLIS – Edward, age 3, did a slow somersault on a brightly colored rug, decorated with numbers and letters, at the Head Start center in Annapolis.
Like most of his classmates, he was a little fidgety after a field trip to a post office. His teacher, Annabelle Speck, quieted the children, then read a book about a tiny post office in a town with a dog as a mayor.
The trip and the related reading are typical in Head Start centers, which aim to start kids early on the track for success in school.
The federally subsidized pre-school program for underprivileged kids will receive state funding for the first time this year.
Maryland’s 38 Head Start centers, serving 9,416 children, will receive $2.5 million from the state this year, according to Maryland Head Start Association chairwoman Mary Gunning. The federal government pays $52.5 million for Head Start programs in Maryland.
“Early intervention makes an impact,” Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said, “We’ve got to make sure that every program has the standards and people have the training they need so the kids can get a head start.”
Head Start plans to use the extra money to extend the time children may attend.
Now most of the centers are open six hours daily in two sessions. Working parents had to arrange other day care until they could pick their children up. But with extended hours, they will be able to eliminate some of that shuffling.
“That’s a feature we’re very excited about because of how we can help parents who are working now,” said Renee Foote, director of Head Start programs in Anne Arundel County.
Since most Head Start centers are open only 10 months a year, some plan to use the extra funds to start summer programs, Gunning said.
Most centers offer a variety of free educational and social services for 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families. An Early Head Start program serves pregnant women, infants and toddlers.
Offerings can include pre-school lessons, meals, field trips, parenting seminars, and transportation.
Parents can attend child development sessions and courses to get licensed in child day care. The centers also run seminars in resume writing, interviewing skills, and dressing for success. The goal is to get unemployed parents off welfare and into the work force.