Always related but with slightly different missions, the Absaroka Head Start and Early Head Start early childhood education programs are both moving into a newly remodeled building on East Main Street in Lovell.
For more than 25 years, the Lovell Center for Absaroka, Inc. Head Start has been located at 750½ Kansas Ave. in a remodeled home. Early Head Start has been at a similar facility at 353 Great Western. Now both will be at a newly remodeled building at 384 E. Main, the former McKinnon Flooring building.
Absaroka Head Start is located in 10 communities and seven counties in central and northwest Wyoming: Lovell, Basin, Powell, Cody, Buffalo, Thermopolis, Worland, Riverton, Lander and Sheridan.
Executive Director Jamie Stockwell said Absaroka built a working relationship with Tom McKinnon in Worland when the businessman remodeled and designed an office property for an early childhood education center to Absaroka Head Start specifications.
“He listened to our agency about our needs,” Stockwell said. “It was an ideal partnership.”
McKinnon also owns the building on Main in Lovell, and working with Early Head Start Director Andrea Mehling, Stockwell began considering a move that would combine services with Early Head Start.
“Andrea and I have been looking in all of the communities we serve for quality locations that would improve the quality of our service,” Stockwell said.
The Main Street location in Lovell is advantageous in many ways, Stockwell and Mehling said. It is near the Children’s Resource Center, which allows easy access the CRC’s speech and language services, and the new building has plenty of off-street parking for families. Its Main Street location is also much more visible than the previous Head Start and Early Head Start facilities.
“It’s very easy to find for people moving to the area,” Stockwell said.
Joining forces also allows for continuity of programming, Stockwell and Mehling said, noting that a family enrolling in Early Head Start can potentially work through one location for five years – birth through age 5, which directly feeds into school readiness.
“We had home-based locations,” Stockwell said. “This is much more of an academic setting but is also welcoming and comfortable. It has a much better layout and design.”
“We’re serving the same families so it’s more convenient,” Mehling added.
The Early Head Start program offers services from prenatal care to age 3 and works with families in the home but has some activities at the center, such as once-a-month meals and activities where parents and kids can interact and learn. Sessions involve parenting techniques and socialization, Mehling said.
Early Head Start will be in the front part of the building inside the front door.
Down the hallway will be the Absaroka Head Start classroom for kids 3-5 years old, and Stockwell said there will be both morning and afternoon classes this year.
“Having morning and afternoon classes gives flexibility to parents,” she said.
The new facility includes new tinted windows out front, offices for both programs, a restroom with specialized toilets for little ones, an ADA restroom for adults, storage space, a new kitchen facility, all new furniture for the Head Start classroom and a segregated playground to separate older and younger children in the backyard.
Absaroka Head Start is recruiting for 3-4-year-olds for the 2014-15 school year, and classes will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 2, unless remodeling construction delays the start. A vandal recently broke out a front window, which also must be fully repaired, Stockwell said.
By David Peck