By Kari Merrill
Quality childcare has never been cheaper thanks to Mountainland Head Start, a non-profit organization offering free preschool to low-income families.
The Mountainland Head Start program has been serving local low-income families for nearly 40 years and is funded by the federal government.
The program provides services that include a preschool program for children ages three and four, medical and dental examinations for each child, parent training in child development, a developmental screening and assessment of each child, social service assistance and leadership opportunities for parents.
Linda Schofield, a representative of the program, said eligibility is determined mainly by age and income, on a case-by-case basis, but a number of other criteria may come into play.
The curriculum for the Mountainland Head Start program is comprehensive and designed to cover everything developmentally appropriate for 3- and 4-year-olds, including fine and gross motor skills, language development and self-help skills.
?It?s such an excellent opportunity,? said Melody Pedersen, executive coordinator of child development for the program. ?Families that are struggling financially are still able to provide their children with the opportunity to take part in a classroom environment that will prepare them for kindergarten.?
Pedersen said a big part of the Head Start program is getting parents involved with their children, in everything from healthcare to classroom needs.
?We really involve the parents and give them the chance to serve on different committees. It?s really a community approach to the whole education process,? Pedersen said.
Mountainland Head Start serves 817 children each year and offers opportunities to families of children with disabilities as well as those for whom English is a second language.
There are 30 head teachers, 30 assistant teachers and 30 teaching aides at the Mountainland facilities, with three paid teachers per classroom.
Staff members chart the sequential growth of each student and adjust the curriculum to better further child development.
?The classrooms are extremely environmentally friendly to the children,? Pedersen said. ?It gets them ready academically for kindergarten and gives them a good first impression of school.?
Mountainland has 11 sites across three counties and five school districts, from Heber to Nephi, with one site in Provo and two sites in Orem.
For more information on applying to the Mountainland Head Start program or to receive an application, call 801-375-7981 or stop by their office at 264 W. 300 North in Provo.