Nearly one year after the pandemic forced the closure of schools across Pennsylvania, Luzerne County Head Start (LCHS) will re-open 20 of its classrooms for in-person preschool services. Beginning Mon., March 15, Head Start/Pre-K Counts classrooms at 15 different sites in Luzerne and Wyoming Counties will once again offer in-person learning to 131 preschool-aged children. This accounts for approximately 10% of children LCHS is funded to serve. Classrooms have been closed for in-person learning since March of 2020, with the exception of two sites in Wyoming County, which opened for a brief period in November before closing again due to increasing COVID-19 cases.
Executive director, Lynn Evans Biga, said “The benefits of in-person preschool services for young children are invaluable. They learn social and emotional skills, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support and other services that cannot be easily replicated online. We want our children back in the classroom. We want to make sure they are fed, they play, they exercise, they learn, they explore and they make new friends.”
LCHS has put in place a number of protocols to ensure all staff and children are safe. Class sizes will be limited to 10 students. In most centers, classes will take place in a hybrid format Mon. through Thurs. for four hours each day. Families who have children in classrooms that will offer in-person learning have the option to keep their children enrolled in virtual services. Additionally, all staff and children will be required to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing and take part in extensive hand-washing. Prior to arrival, each staff person is required to fill out a COVID-19 screening. Temperatures of children will be taken upon entry into the classroom. If a child becomes ill while at school, the child will be isolated with a staff member until a parent or guardian picks up the child. Classrooms and high touch surfaces will also be cleaned and sanitized at the end of each school day.
LCHS operates 23 Head Start/Pre-K Counts centers and five Early Head Start centers across Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Eight of its Head Start/Pre-K Counts sites and the Early Head Start home visiting program will continue services in full virtual operation.