Mon BOE discusses county’s Head Start program

MORGANTOWN — Students were the natural lead topic of discussion during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Monongalia County Board of Education.

Even the ones yet to be born.

Especially the ones yet to be born.

Debbie Jones, who directs early childhood programs for Mon’s Head Start and Early Head Start efforts, gave an overview of the work she and her colleagues do from their offices in Westover.

Both are familiar to generations of West Virginians.

Head Start has been around since 1965, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty in the U.S.

The aim of the federally funded program is to promote school readiness and overall health among youngsters from mostly low-income families.

Head Start here has a compliment of 181 kids enrolled here for the coming year, Jones said.

“That’s pretty much our full enrollment,” she said.

Its sister component, Early Head Start, is an enrichment program geared more to parents, as it is “a womb to 3” program, Jones said.

Early Head Start in the county this year has 120 children on its current rolls, she said, plus six pregnant women.

“Our goal is to connect parents with resources,” she said.

“We’ll go out to their homes,” she said.

“We teach them all the little things they can do. You don’t have to invest a lot of money.”

West Virginia generally has a high academic investment among who teach the state’s youngest students.

More than 90 percent of Head Start teachers in the state have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field, as chronicled two years ago by a report from Rutgers University.

The New Jersey school’s National Institute for Early Education Research regularly rates the Mountain State among the best in the U.S. for its Head Start and Early Head Start programs.