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Improvements to the 415 Eighth St. site next to Ramona Elementary School include a new play structure installed at the Community Action Partnership (CAPSLO) Early Head Start playground for 2- to 3-year-olds and a new play structure at the Head Start playground for 3- to 5-year-olds, said Center Supervisor Soledad Solis.
Additionally, the large play structure on the Head Start playground is being renovated.
Solis said the improvements are being funded by grants, the California Department of Education and Office of Head Start federal funding.
“The whole facility is very pretty,” Solis said. “We have turf everywhere and we have a sandbox on each playground as well. The kids are so excited.”
The outdoor classroom area including turf extends to a new patio with age-appropriate furniture for the children. The younger children on the Early Head Start playground enjoy bringing their books and toys to a pine tree surrounded by a deck and railing, Solis said.
Another Head Start site, Nuevo Head Start at 1401 Hanson Lane, is expanding with a new speech therapy room, said CAPSLO Head Start Program Manager Elena Ingrao. The addition will allow the speech therapy program to run in conjunction with the Ramona Unified School District, Ingrao said.
Speech delays or language disorders are common among 3- to 5-year-olds and early intervention is the key to healing, she said.
“School should be a happy place but without speech skills it can be a scary and lonely experience,” Ingrao said. “We’re trying to give kids a chance to thrive.”
The new speech therapy room looks like a fairy tale cottage with plants and a bench decorated with butterflies around it, said Ashley Pfohl, CAPSLO Head Start disability and behavioral health coordinator. The room provides space for the Ramona Unified speech pathologist to meet with students and to store supplies, she said.
About 17 percent of the Head Start children attending schools that it serves in Poway and Ramona have individualized education plans, or IEPs, Pfohl said. And of those children with IEPs, 90 percent are related to speech and language impairment, she said.
That’s why it’s important for the Ramona Unified speech pathologist to be on campus to support the teachers and parents with children receiving intervention services, she said.
“It’s a collaborative relationship,” said Pfohl, who meets with a preschool assessment team each week to discuss children in the program that are in the assessment process. “We work hand-in-hand to identify children, refer children and have them assessed in our program.”
“We just want to make sure the children and their families have access to top-notch education services and facilities,” she added. “This goes above and beyond our extended services. It’s been a great addition to that campus.”
Nuevo Head Start also has a newly repaved parking lot.
Nuevo Teacher/Site Supervisor Gabriela Ceballos said the gravel parking lot was resurfaced with a new blacktop about eight months ago. Wood chips on the playground were also replaced with artificial grass, she said.
The campus currently serves 37 children ages 3 to 5 years old in two preschool classes. Ceballos said the campus plans to add a modular classroom to serve infants and toddlers up to 2 years old in the near future.
The CAPSLO Head Start program, which is administered by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, provides no-cost child care and a high-quality education with research-based curriculum, Solis said. Full day programs with nine hours of care are offered for qualified parents and single parents who work full time, and an extended program of six-and-a-half hours of care are offered to families with one qualifying working parent in a two-parent household.
The Ramona Head Starts closed for in-person learning in March 2020 but reopened three months later with a six-week summer program. Some children returned for onsite services and some distance learning services were offered again last fall, but the centers only recently reopened for full services.
This summer, 20 children in the Head Start program can participate in a kindergarten readiness program until July 15 and Early Head Start children can attend through July 30.
Full services will resume Sept. 1. Family service advocates will be going out in the community to recruit new participants in the Head Start program. Services are offered to income eligible parents, homeless families and foster children.
For more information, call the Head Start on Eighth Street at 760-789-2087 or Nuevo Head Start on Hanson Lane at 760-789-1093.
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