TWIN FALLS — The College of Southern Idaho’s Head Start/Early Head Start program recently received federal funding to buy and renovate a building, which would add a second center in town.
The program will continue to serve the same number of low-income children. The second location in Twin Falls will help alleviate overcrowding at the existing center on Falls Avenue West and allow for offering longer preschool classes.
“We’re not replacing anything,” director Mancole Fedder said Wednesday. “We didn’t get any extra slots, if you will. We are just going to able to provide more hours to our existing slots than in the past. In order to do that, we need to secure a new facility.”
The topic came up in a monthly Head Start/Early Head Start written report, which the CSI board of trustees approved Monday.
CSI Head Start/Early Head Start received $1.4 million in one-time start-up funding from the Office of Head Start, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The bulk of that money — $923,003 — will be used to purchase and renovate a facility in Twin Falls. And some of the funds will be used to renovate the Rupert center.
A Twin Falls building hasn’t been identified or purchased yet. It will likely be spring 2020 before children are using the new space, Fedder said.
Nationwide, Head Start offers preschool classes, while Early Head Start is for pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age 3. They’re federally funded programs free of charge to families, but parents must meet federal poverty guidelines.
Since 1999, CSI has received federal grants to operate Head Start/Early Head Start programs and oversees 10 centers across southern Idaho. It serves a total of 561 children — 92 of whom are in Early Head Start.
The Twin Falls center has 100 Head Start children — 20 of whom are from Buhl. The Buhl center closed last year due to a failing foundation and plumbing problems, and there isn’t a new West End facility up and running yet. Plus, 16 Early Head Start children attend the Twin Falls center, too.
“That makes it fairly crowded in that center,” Fedder said.
With a second location, it will create space for future growth, Fedder said. But the number of Head Start and Early Head Start slots is dependent on federal appropriations set by Congress.
In addition to the $1.4 million in start-up funding, CSI was awarded $2.14 million for duration services — extending the length of preschool class days, totaling 1,020 hours each year.
Increasing class time was part of new performance standards announced in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It was the first time the standards had been revamped since 1975.
Five CSI Head Start classrooms already have long classes — typically, six hours, compared with three-and-a-half in other classrooms — but the goal is to expand that to include up to 50 percent of classrooms.
Children who attend the Hansen center will benefit from that change starting in August. In total, 36 children will receive six-hour preschool classes.