The Wilmington school board approved a one-year home-based Head Start program. The district agreed this week to contract with Lawrence County Social Services Inc. to provide preschool education for up to 10 young residents of the district. The program also will have access to East Lawrence Elementary School. Betsy Spargo, Head Start director, said a more traditional classroom-based Head Start program will be offered at Mohawk elementary in the fall. She said 17 students will participate in that program, with students attending five days each week. The Mohawk school board agreed in the spring to participate, she said. Both programs will operate from Sept. 1 through mid-June. "Lawrence County is a very rural community," Spargo noted. "It's difficult to provide the program and meet our transportation guidelines in these rural areas." Those guidelines include limiting the children to being on buses for less than an hour. "We're bringing the program to them, especially in the northeastern part of the county." Spargo said funding is provided through Gov. Ed Rendell's commitment to and funding for early childhood education. Through the Wilmington program, she said, a Head Start teacher will visit each participating child's home once a week. The teacher will assist parents to use the home as the child's primary learning environment and help them improve parenting skills. Teachers also will recommend activities that enhance education, nutrition, health, and social services. "Parents are their child's first and best teachers," she said. "They spend more time with the children that we could ever do." In addition, once or twice each month all participating parents and children will meet at East Lawrence Elementary. "This socialization is important to prepare the children to enter kindergarten," Spargo said. "It also allows parents to meet." Through the summer, Spargo said, 518 interviews were conducted with potential Head Start participants. She said students must meet age criteria and 90 percent must meet federal poverty income guidelines, which includes income of about $19,000 for a family of four.

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