Sherri Turley believes early childhood education pays dividends, which is why she encourages area families to enroll their children in Head Start or preschool.

McLean County Public Schools, in conjunction with Audubon Area Community Services Head Start, are currently enrolling students for the 2019-20 school year.

Turley, MCPS district preschool coordinator, said applications for both services are accepted throughout the school year for the blended program, but families who wish to place their students in school in August should contact the district or Head Start as soon as possible to fill out the proper paperwork.

The preschool and Head Start programs are free for those who qualify based on income or who have a child with a disability. Children are required to be three or four years old by Aug. 1.

"If (parents) know they don't meet the income requirements, but they

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have some concerns about their child's development, we complete a screening and then we will follow-up with them," Turley said. "Then we will do an evaluation, and if they qualify then they are automatically eligible for the program."

She said Head Start/Preschool centers are in all three district elementary schools. Livermore and Calhoun elementary schools offer split sessions, morning and afternoon, and Sacramento Elementary School has a morning session.

Turley said putting children in Head Start and preschool programs are important because they prepare students for kindergarten, and gets them "ready to learn."

A lot of students who meet the requirements for these programs lack a lot of experience, exposure, and skills to be successful once they enter kindergarten. Head Start and preschool gives them an opportunity to expand those developmental skills that are important, Turley said.

"Preschool is developed around those skills that will help prepare (children) for kindergarten," she said.

Applications for these early education programs are facilitated through the Audubon Area family advocates for each of the elementary schools. For Calhoun Head Start, contact Ellie Humphrey at 270-273-0094; for Livermore and Sacramento contact Bethanney McPherson at 270-273-9693.

To learn more information call the school district office at 270-273-5257.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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