Westside Head Start begins all-virtual teaching

Catholic Charities Community Services CEO and president Paul Mulligan and reads to students Westside Head Start in Peoria. (Catholic Charities Community Services)

Students without resources will have what they need delivered to their homes

PEORIA — Catholic Charities Westside Head Start (WSHS) begins virtual learning programs this week. To ensure that all students can participate, staff members will deliver supplies to children and families who request them.

Catholic Charities Westside Head Start provides comprehensive early, continuous, year-round childhood education through a holistic approach by working with the whole family. Programs emphasize pre-reading, language, math, cognitive skills and health, social and emotional competence to prepare disadvantaged children for school and to maximize their potential for a bright future. Westside Head Start offers classes in Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Glendale, Goodyear, Littleton, Peoria and Tolleson.

“Children of all ages will be dealing with the largest achievement gap in recent history, so we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure kids are getting what they need to continue their development and education, even at this early age,” said Westside Head Start executive director Yatin Dua.

Catholic Charities Community Services

Founded in 1933, Catholic Charities provides care for the vulnerable of all faiths in Central and Northern Arizona through programs in foster care, early education, affordable housing, veteran services, refugee resettlement and homeless outreach.

“Staff is doing all they can to connect parents with the information they will need. If a family doesn’t have a computer or even a phone to connect through Zoom or Skype, staff is dropping off packets, crayons, supplies and more so the kids can participate.”

All staff members are working from home but can go to classrooms at district sites and modular locations to pick up supplies or access technology as needed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols for hygiene and safety are strictly enforced.

The program collaborates with Catholic Charities’ Philanthropy Department and other area agencies to assist families struggling with food insecurity to ensure they continue receiving food boxes generously provided by donors. In addition, the district is working to provide grab-and-go lunches as well.

“During normal times, the kids are provided food each day in the classroom, and many families count on that,” Dua said.

At this time, no estimate on returning to the classroom has been made; Westside Head Start is monitoring the local guidelines as well as working with National Head Start to ensure the safest environment possible. Parent, advisory and policy councils will hold meetings virtually.

Students and families eligible to enroll in Westside Head Start include expectant mothers, children ages 0-5, children with special needs, foster children and homeless children. Enrollment, other than for families with a member who has attended Westside Head Start or expectant mothers, can be done online. Expectant mothers and families with members who have attended the program should call 623-436-9868.

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