|USDA INVESTS IN A COMMUNITY’S CHILDREN AND FUTURE|
|, May 04, 2011
Outline Of Need
For years, the Head Start program in Newberg, Oregon operated in a church sanctuary. They packed up tables, chairs, toys and books on Friday afternoons and hauled them back every Monday morning. While it offered much-needed space for the early learning program, the church was not set up for educational purposes, nor did it provide private areas for medical screenings, teacher preparation, parent conferences or student observations. And without a proper kitchen, the children’s meals had to be purchased and transported from a nearby hospital cafeteria.
Despite the program’s limitations, the need for services was increasing. Between 2000 and 2009, the population of rural Yamhill County rose by 16.5 percent. With it, the Head Start waiting list grew longer, yet the program could accept only 29 children. At the same time, the church where classes were held was also growing, and they began to need more of their space during the week. It was clear the Newberg Head Start required its own facility, one designed for comprehensive child and family development, education services, and a larger number of children.
How Rural Development Helped
Through its Community Facilities Program, USDA Rural Development offers funding support for essential public buildings and equipment in small towns and rural areas. With the help of a $459,000 loan from Rural Development, Head Start of Yamhill County was able to build a new, stand-alone facility in Newberg in 2008. Additional resources for the project were leveraged through Head Start of Yamhill County and a number of private donations.
With the funding, a 4,000 square-foot facility was constructed according to designs specifically developed for Head Start buildings across the county. The new location has two large classrooms, a kitchen, a parent meeting and observation area, and teacher offices. The design incorporates energy efficiency measures, such as heavily insulated perma-block construction, south facing windows, and a heating system that utilizes the warm plumbing between the hot water heater and the kitchen and bathrooms. The system also heats the floors, where infants and preschoolers often spend most of their day. The ventilation, too, is specifically modeled to reduce allergens and asthmatic symptoms while circulating fresh air.
The USDA loan for the new Head Start building will be paid back to the Government over the course of 40 years at a reasonable interest rate. For local residents, however, the good terms are outdone by the lasting benefits to the fabric of the community. The loan is allowing the Newberg Head Start facility to deliver high-quality preschool education, parent support, health screenings, nutrition and social services to 58 children from economically disadvantaged families. The upgraded services are helping these youngsters prepare for school and, ultimately, to succeed in life.
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