BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - An affordable early education option will soon help even more of Harrison County’s youngest learners get ready for kindergarten success.
Mississippi State University’s Extension Service plans to offer Head Start Program at five centers in Harrison County: Gilbert Mason, Harry Tartt, Linda Lyons, Central Elementary and Gorenflo Elementary.
The new Head Start programs will serve children ages three to five years old. The initiative aims to get the kids academically engaged in a life stage critical for learning.
“Infant-toddler ages are ages where there is a lot of early childhood development, a lot of brain development," said Carol Burnett, executive director of Moore Community House in Biloxi.
This is the first time MSU’s Extension Service has offered direct childcare services. To make the new programs possible, MSU Extension established partnerships with Gulfport School District, Biloxi Public School District, Moore Community House, and Shine Early Learning.
Moore Community House currently hosts Harrison County’s only Early Head Start program. The expansion will allow the Early Head Start Program there to take in more children aged infant to three years old. Burnett said the program supports parents by helping them with professional development, as well as childcare.
“Many of the moms that are in our programs are in jobs that are very...they don’t have maternity leave, they don’t have flexibility so a lot of the kids come into our program very young," said Burnett. “Our program works with the parents to set goals for the family, then helps the parents achieve those goals.”
Moore Community House has 104 students in its Early Head Start program. Educators are excited to help more kids have an easy transition into kindergarten.
“We have 125 children on our waiting list so many families need this,” said Burnett. "We’re excited about the possibility to expand the number of children that we can serve.”
The program is funded for five years through a grant from the Office of Head Start under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A parent meeting to discuss the changes and programs being offered will be held from 6-9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19 at the Coastal Research and Extension Center, located at 1815 Popp’s Ferry Road in Biloxi.