JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Duval County students head back to school in less than a week. That means students will be heading to Head Start and Early Head Start as well.
The federally-funded programs prepare students for kindergarten, available for families who may not be able to afford it otherwise.
The program is now being run by Lutheran Services of Florida, and this year Head Start will have a brand-new facility ready just in time for the start of school in Duval County on Monday.
Organizers are encouraging parents to register now.
Last year, the Don Brewer Center downtown wasn't even being used, but now it will be helping students get ready for kindergarten as the newest Head Start center.
The Don Brewer Center is redefined, and LSF Head Start Executive Director Nacole Guyton is excited to see it.
"The center was established as a child care facility last year, it was not in use so were excited to bring it back to its original existence," said Guyton.
Guyton said, not only will the center serve as a child care center, but as a hub for LSF.
"We want to make sure we are an established part of Duval County and that are providing and seeing to the needs of the children and the families here," said Guyton.
Head Start programs in Duval County this school year will extend an additional two hours per day and will increase from 160 to 227 days per year.
This year the programs will serve nearly 1,700 children as young as six weeks to five years old.
"Kids who have a great start from babies to five years old, they have gains and maintain them through third grade, so that's our goal. For children to leave our program ready for kindergarten and their futures," said Guyton.
The most common form of Head Start is center based, where the child is educated at one of the more than 20 locations. The second option is home based, which is provided by Children's Home Society of Florida.
"It's a little more comfortable, more of a natural setting. Some families feel more comfortable with their families at home with them during the day, so we send a home visitor to them," said Tracy McDade, who serves as the Director of Program Operations for Children's Home Society of Florida.
Whatever the option, LSF said they both have the same goal.
"We're really serious about school readiness and our education piece and making sure kids are ready for kindergarten," said Guyton.
LSF said both options are also great options for students with disabilities.
The first day of Head Start is Monday, August 18th, the same day as back to school for Duval County and there are still many openings available.
Visit the LSF Head Start website for more information and eligibility requirements for the program.
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