Students started school at Clover Park School District’s new Early Learning Program on Sept. 17 for Head Start and Sept. 21 for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). While the two programs have been aligned since 2013 at school sites, this is the first time all Lakewood-area preschool students are together under one roof. Early Learning Program manager, Jennifer White, says there are many benefits to having both programs consolidated in one area instead of being spread among schools. This structure also allows for more group activities between the classes.
“There’s a lot more teacher collaboration and flexibility in what they can do since the program is structured for early learning,” said White. “For instance, the playground is designed for young children aged 3-5 instead of elementary-aged students. Also, we’re able to use the gym which we weren’t able to use at the elementary schools.”
Many of the early learning programs are in English and Spanish. The teachers sing songs in both languages and there are many bilingual books..
Teacher Jennie Morton said all of her Head Start students came with smiles and were ready to learn.
“Students at this age are curious about everything,” said Morton. “We’ll go through counting, alphabet letters, name recognition and identifying shapes and colors. By the time they leave, some students are able to write their full name. The goal is to prepare them for kindergarten.”
ECEAP is funded by Washington state and provides free services and support to eligible children and their families including preschool, family support and parent involvement, and child health coordination and nutrition. Head Start is the federal version of the ECEAP program.