The Morris County Freeholders and leaders of the Head Start Community Program of Morris County were joined by state Senator Anthony Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and other local officials at the dedication of a new expanded Parsippany Township home for Head Start’s early education and childcare services for needy families.
The new classrooms were officially launched with a ribbon-cutting outside 1 Medical Drive in Morris County Central Park, which also houses the Morris County Department of Human Services and other programs. The new location will enable Head Start to double its capacity to assist children in need.
“By renovating this county space, Head Start will double their capacity to serve 90 children, including some with special needs," Freeholder Director Deborah Smith said. "This is a success story made possible by the cooperative efforts of Morris County, the federal government, the State of New Jersey and the Township of Parsippany. It also is another chapter in how we all manage to come together to help the children of Head Start.”
The freeholders began the move last year with a $1.2 million bond ordinance to rehabilitate the county-owned space under a loan and leasing agreement with the federally funded Head Start program.
Head Start began a slow, but steady transition into the new facility earlier this fall from space that had been provided by the county under a nominal leasing arrangement since 2005 at Morris County’s Morris View building nearby in Morris Township.
Preschool and childcare for low-income families is now available at the Head Start Community Early Childhood Center at 1 Medical Drive, and there are currently openings for income-eligible children.
The facility will continue to focus on Morristown-area families and free, full-day services are being offered through a federal Head Start grant and a state preschool education collaboration with the Morris School District.
“Today’s event marks the expansion of Morris County’s effective Head Start Program,” state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco said. “The valuable space and new classrooms are already helping build an educational foundation for more children from low-income families. With the help of this program, students will develop curiosity and a passion for learning that will help make them better prepared and more proficient when they enter the school system. These impressionable youngsters will develop academic skills that will benefit them for decades to come.”
With the opening of the new classrooms, wraparound childcare and summer programming is also planned to support working parents. Head Start also will continue its main operations at its Dover facility.
The mission of Head Start Community Program of Morris County, founded in 1965, is to partner with families to provide comprehensive support for child development and school readiness, from prenatal through kindergarten ages, for the community’s most vulnerable children.
The organization serves 333 families, providing free programs for expectant mothers, infants, toddlers and preschoolers at sites throughout Morris County. Head Start services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
“Head Start is very grateful for our longstanding partnership with Morris County, which enables us to provide life-changing services for the area’s most vulnerable children and families,” Head Start of Morris County Executive Director Susan O’Donnell said. “This project leverages county, state and federal resources that work together to break the cycle of poverty for the neediest families in our community.”
The new location is situated in an area dubbed Morris County’s “Nonprofit Mall” because it has become a central location for many services and nonprofit organizations designed to help disadvantaged families.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony opened with several of the Head Start children, who are already attending classes on-site, singing songs and presenting thank-you cards and artwork to Freeholders Smith and Selen.
Offering remarks at the event were Parsippany Mayor Michael Soriano, Morris County Human Services Director Kasey Errico and Kelly Harte, Assistant Superintendent Morris School District.
Kellie Doucette, District Director for U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), was also at the ceremony to present Head Start leaders with a federal Congressional Certificate in honor of the new facility.
“I have had the privilege of visiting the Head Start Community Program of Morris County to see firsthand the dedication of their staff in the classroom and the impact of their programs on the children and families they serve,” Congresswoman Sherrill said. “And to see this long-standing program continue to expand its reach through this innovative partnership with Morris County and additional federal grant funding is a great reminder of how our community comes together to care for each other.”
Also in attendance were Morris County Engineer Chris Vitz, Morris County Assistant Administrator Deena Leary, Pre-K Principal Deanne Guastello of the Morris School District and Former Freeholder John Murphy, who was instrumental in developing the Nonprofit Mall.
Head Start’s early childhood programs have achieved 4-star quality ratings through Grow NJ Kids, the state quality rating system for early care and education programs. Financing approved by the Board of Freeholders for the construction work is a loan to Head Start, which would reimburse the county for the project.
Information about services is available by calling Head Start at 973-989-1430, or through the organization’s website, www.headstartmc.org.