Rutland County Head Start Ribbon Cutting Scheduled Feb. 29th to Celebrate County’s First Ever Early Head Start Program for Infants and Toddlers

Rutland, Vt. – This year’s Leap Day marks a huge leap forward for early childhood education in Rutland County.

Thanks to the tireless work of local community leaders and legislators, Rutland County Head Start has expanded to offer the nationally recognized program for infants and toddlers to Rutland County families. The new program was also made possible through grant support provided by The Bowse Trust and Let’s Grow Kids.

Rutland City Mayor Mike Doenges, representatives from the offices of Vermont’s legislative delegation, and other community leaders will be on hand to celebrate Rutland County’s first ever Early Head Start (EHS) program with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, February 29th, at 78 Meadow Street in Rutland. The event will begin with refreshments and a tour of the new Family Resource, Art & Literacy Center at 3:00 pm followed by the ribbon cutting at 3:15 pm and tours of the new Early Head Start classrooms.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders highlighted the importance of the program for Rutland County families.

“It is good news that Rutland County Head Start is opening its first Early Head Start program to offer infants, toddlers, and their families high-quality early learning, as well as health care and nutrition support,” said Sen. Sanders. “Ages zero to four are the most important years of human life intellectually and emotionally. It should come as no surprise to learn that when children have early care and education, they perform better throughout school, are less likely to interact with the criminal justice system, and report increased overall happiness later in life. We, as a nation, must do more to invest in federally-funded programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, so that all families have quality child care at a cost they can afford.”

U.S. Representative Becca Balint agreed.

“Head Start programs are transformational for children and their families, setting up our children for success from the very beginning,” said Rep. Balint. “For over 30 years, Rutland County Head Start has served the Rutland community high-quality, holistic early childhood education. The expansion of infant and toddler programs will mean alleviating the burden of childcare for more families through quality education. As a parent and a former teacher, I know how critical these programs are for the whole community. Investment in Head Start is an important step in continuing to put working families first and I look forward to the impact this will have on the communities for years to come.”

U.S. Senator Peter Welch emphasized the importance of partnerships in meeting community needs.

“Developing a strong educational foundation at an early age is crucial to a child’s long-term development,” said Welch. “There is a high demand for educational programs like Rutland’s first Early Head Start program and we’re going to keep working with Vermont’s childcare leaders and state and local partners to give all families across our state the space to learn, grow, and thrive in our communities.”

Dick Courcelle, Chief Executive Officer of Community Care Network, reiterated the importance of community support.

“After many years of planning, Community Care Network is honored to have the opportunity to operate the first Early Head Start program in the Rutland Region,” said Courcelle. “We are thankful for the seed funding to kickstart this new program, as well as the strong backing we received from Vermont’s congressional delegation, namely Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Peter Welch and Representative Becca Balint, which underscored the important role Head Start plays in supporting family stabilization and school readiness for children and families here in Rutland County.”

Donna Barrow, Ed.D., Rutland County Head Start Director, emphasized that Early Head Start offers much more than a typical preschool or daycare.

“Like our traditional Head Start program for preschool children, Early Head Start provides the highest-quality early education and care from highly trained staff and holistic support for the entire family,” said Barrow. “We provide family centered services. Our highly-trained, responsive teachers use the Creative Curriculum model, which is the leading and top-rated whole-child curriculum to support infants, toddlers, preschoolers and caregivers. And, our programs are free for eligible families.”

“Rutland County Head Start is known for high-quality programming, and the Early Head Start program too will be based on best practices and the highest quality standards of care which are crucial to healthy development and learning,” added Courcelle.

Services for Early Head Start parents and caregivers include support groups and resources to address individual needs such as housing stability, transportation, and assistance in meeting personal goals such as returning to college, starting a business, or developing leadership skills as part of the organization’s Policy Council. Classroom environments are beautifully designed to intentionally create opportunities for babies, toddlers, and caregivers to explore, learn, and connect.

“High quality infant and toddler care is badly needed in our community, and this program will provide just that along with comprehensive family services,” added Courcelle. “It will also complement our long-standing Head Start preschool program. We look forward to further expanding our programming in the years ahead.”

Early Head Start features low teacher/child ratios and focus on early attachment, healthy development and nutritional needs. Expertly trained program teams promote physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development to prepare children for continued growth, development, and later success in primary school.

Rutland City Mayor Mike Doenges summarized the importance of the Early Head Start expansion.

“Rutland City, like many other communities, is in need of innovative childcare solutions that meet the needs of local families,” said Doenges. “Early Head Start couldn’t come at a better time, filling a crucial gap in services that is desperately needed in our city. This program goes beyond childcare, working directly with families and providing much-needed resources that we see demand for in our community every day. It’s not just about nurturing children; it’s about empowering families and building a stronger, more resilient community for generations to come.”

For more information or to RSVP for the Grand Opening, call (802) 775-8225.

About Rutland County Head Start: Rutland County Head Start and Early Head Start are funded by the Office of Head Start (OHS) and administered locally by Rutland Community Programs as part of Community Care Network. OHS administers grant funding oversight to about 1,700 such agencies. Since 1965, Head Start programs have reached 40 million children and families. Rutland County Head Start provides comprehensive services for pregnant women, children from birth to age five, and their families throughout Rutland County, Vermont. It is dedicated to supporting the development of the child within the family, and the development of the family within the community. LEARN MORE

About Community Care Network: CCN is comprised of Rutland Mental Health Services and Rutland Community Programs. The programs of Community Care Network serve more than 3,000 people each year throughout Rutland County across the areas of behavioral health, developmental disabilities, substance use recovery, senior and volunteer, and early childhood education services. CCN is focused on enhancing the health and well-being of those it serves through responsive, innovative and collaborative services that offer support across the lifespan. LEARN MORE