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Head Start three-year-olds program gets new zip code

Some may have noticed less activity around the Cornell Head Start building on Woodside Drive, while others may have noticed an increased number of little ones at the Cadott Elementary School.

The reason is, the Cornell Head Start three-year-olds program packed up and moved the short distance to the Cadott School District, this fall.

Sheri Norgard, co-director for CESA 11 Head Start, says a decision was made about a year ago, to try something different.

“Every year, we do a self-assessment and we were kind of analyzing what we do with all of our centers,” said Norgard. “During that time, the Cadott School District…had been in contact…we have a 4K collaboration there and we started talking about three year olds.”

Some years ago, Cadott children actually attended the Cornell center, and with a 4K Head Start model already in place with the Cadott Elementary School, it seemed like a good fit.

“It was a decision based on a school district really wanting us, seeking us out to be in the district,” said Norgard.

With only one classroom running at Cornell, CESA 11 thought the move was something they wanted to pursue, with encouragement and welcome from Cadott Elementary School principal Terri Goettl.

“One of the things about this collaboration, is that Terri, she really believes in the Head Start philosophy of working with children and their families,” said Norgard. “So, it was a really good alignment when she approached us about 4K. She was very instrumental in making that happen.”

The Cornell teaching team either moved to Cadott, or are in other Head Start classrooms “It was a very difficult decision to leave the Cornell community,” said Norgard. “I talked with some community members who were disappointed, that makes it tough. Moving the one classroom to Cadott, will also reduce the program’s operational costs, something we have been working very hard to do, with ongoing flat funding.”

The Cornell Head Start building was recently sold to someone from the community. The building was considered “federal interest,” so all proceeds from the sale are returned to the government.

However, Norgard wants Cornell and the surrounding area to understand, that families with kids from birth to three years old, can have home visitors meet with them on a weekly basis.

“Early Head Start is still going to be in the Cornell area,” said Norgard. “I want people to know there are still services in the area.”

While 4K kids out of the Cadott district would have to open enroll to attend the Head Start program in Cadott, with the three year olds, anyone in Chippewa County can enroll with the Cadott School District.

Goettl, who worked with a Head Start program for nine years with the Eau Claire School District, says she is very happy to have a three-year-olds program starting up at Cadott. With the program, Head Start supports families and child development, while it gives the school an early look to find out if any of the incoming students have any learning challenges or issues, giving staff a jump start in finding ways to help them.

“It’s just a great way to strengthen our collaboration with such a great agency,” said Goettl.

Norgard said, as Head Start is a free program for families who meet income guidelines, that there is little cost associated with moving to the Cadott facility. Requirements to operate out of the school building, are that the Head Start program must be daycare licensed, and run the meal program through the USDA Child and Adult Food Care Program.

The school district provides the meals, which are delivered to the classroom as “family-style” for the three year olds, and invoices CESA, who then requests reimbursement from the USDA. The new Head Start classroom used to be a special education classroom on the north side of the building, near the lunchroom.

There is a bathroom in the classroom and a handicapped accessible bathroom across the hall.

“It’s really convenient and it’s also a little bit away from the other classrooms,” said Goettl.

The Head Start families do have a separate entrance where teachers are stationed during a window for drop-off and pickup, otherwise, parents and students use the main entrance to get buzzed in.

“We’re thrilled to have them (Head Start) here,” said Goettl. “We’re thrilled to collaborate and have more resources for our Cadott families.”