Kittitas County Head Start

Educational Service District 105 has a received grant to provide Head Start services in Kittitas County for the next five years.

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Educational Service District 105 has received a $10.5 million grant to provide Head Start services for Kittitas County for the next five years, according to a news release from ESD 105.

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Head Start.

The Yakima-based Educational Service District 105 serves school districts and early learning programs in a region of south-central Washington that includes Kittitas County, Yakima County, and parts of Grant and Klickitat counties. The new grant award will provide the agency with $2,112,923 for each of the next five years to oversee the Head Start programs from the facility at 220 E. Helena Ave. in Ellensburg, which serves families and children up to 5 years old.

Head Start provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement offerings to low-income children and their families. The program’s services and resources are designed to promote stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

ESD 105 plans to offer transportation services that were not previously being offered at the Kittitas County Head Start site. The agency will also be extending the preschool program’s service year by approximately two weeks to allow more classroom hours for children.

Since 2015, Educational Service District 105 has overseen Head Start programs in the Yakima area, East Wenatchee and Bridgeport. ESD 105 has been partnering with the Yakima-based Enterprise for Progress In the Community (EPIC) as its subcontractor for Head Start services that it began managing in 2015.

EPIC will also serve as the subcontractor for Educational Service District 105 to provide direct services for Kittitas County Head Start. EPIC is a private non-profit agency that has been supplying early childhood services throughout central Washington for more than 35 years. In addition to being a Head Start subcontractor through ESD 105, EPIC serves more than 400 preschool-age children through a contract from Washington’s Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The new federal grant involving the Kittitas County program is part of a combined annual award of $8,634,705 that Educational Service District 105 received to also continue operating the agency’s existing Head Start programs in Yakima, East Wenatchee, and Bridgeport for the next five years.

Community Development Institute (CDI), a Denver-based Head Start contractor, has been managing Kittitas County Head Start responsibilities since February, assuming operations by the site’s previous grantee, Bright Beginnings. Educational Service District 105 will formally assume its new administrative and financial roles at the Ellensburg facility on Aug. 1, following a transition process with CDI throughout the month of July.

EPIC will hold job fairs and plans to hire as many of the Kittitas County Head Start’s current staff as possible. EPIC will post dates of job fairs on its website at www.epicnet.org and will inform the current CDI managers of these dates. Positions will also be posted on the Human Resources section of the Educational Service District 105 website at www.esd105.org.

As part of the transition, the Kittitas County Head Start site will be renamed the “Seedlings Center for Early Learning — Kittitas County,” following the designations used for the other Head Start partnership sites involving ESD 105 and EPIC.

The Head Start services in Ellensburg will be the latest addition in the already established activities conducted by ESD 105 that support and promote quality educational programs in Kittitas County. In addition to its variety of K-12 services for all of Kittitas County’s school districts, ESD 105 is a member of the Kittitas Early Learning Coalition, and since the 2019-20 school year has been the subcontractor in supplying the services of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) to the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District.

In other work specific to early learning, ESD 105 also operates ECEAP programs with Yakima area partners, and assists teachers throughout the region as the instructional lead for the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Development Skills, also known as WaKIDS.

Kevin Chase, superintendent of Educational Service District 105, said: “We are extremely pleased to be able to be a part of this new opportunity to serve the children and families in Kittitas County. Our Head Start programs have seen strong child outcomes and high parent engagement, both of which have created increased school readiness for children. A big part of what we plan to emphasize with parent engagement with Head Start for Kittitas County is providing structured models for parents to strengthen their advocacy skills while also supporting their child’s learning and development.”

Cynthia Juarez, executive director for Early Learning at ESD 105, said: “We look forward to partnering with EPIC and other community service providers to offer high quality comprehensive services to eligible children and families in Kittitas County. For children who are the most removed from opportunities, Head Start and Early Head Start provide access to high quality child development, health, mental health and nutrition services.

“Parents are supported as their child’s first and most important teacher, and we facilitate strong transitions to kindergarten for all — the child, the family, and the school district. We look forward to building on the existing early learning partnerships and on the great work that has already been happening in the area in support of children and families in Kittitas County.”

Parents with children who have been receiving services at Kittitas County Head Start and who are planning plan to enroll their children into the program this fall can obtain registration information through EPIC by calling 509-203-7966.

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