Harwich, Chatham Approve Early Childhood Education Programs

Harwich Elementary School.

HARWICH – Selectmen in Harwich and Chatham have approved the operation of early childhood programs using classrooms at elementary schools in the communities.

The YMCA Cape Cod will use two empty classrooms at Harwich Elementary to operate full-day preschool and infant/toddler programs. The classes would run from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on a year-round basis.

Community Development Institute will operate a preschool program at Chatham Elementary under the Head Start program.

The Colorado-based CDI is currently managing the Head Start program on the Cape.  

The Office of Head Start contracted CDI to administer the Head Start program on the Cape beginning July 1 after the contract with Cape Cod Child Development was not renewed.

An unflattering report compiled by federal officials lead to the Cape Cod Child Development losing Head Start. CDI will administer the program until it can be taken over by a local organization.

“We are not the experts in early care,” said Marc Smith, the Monomoy Regional School District’s director of curriculum. “[That led] us to partner with organizations that are experts in that care.”

YMCA Cape Cod operates similar programs across the region. The cost for families for the new program in Harwich will be the same as the organization’s other programs for early childhood care.

Childcare vouchers for families in financial need will be accepted and scholarships will also be available.

Families interested in participating should contact the YMCA Cape Cod.

To apply for Chatham Elementary’s Head Start program, call 508-355-3136.

The lease agreements for the classroom follows the school district’s recent strategic plan which outlined a need to enhance early childcare and education in both communities, according to Smith.

A survey conducted earlier this year of area families indicated a need for full-day, year-round programs for younger children.

Smith said survey participants resoundingly said there was not enough adequate infant and toddler care available.

There is more preschool care available in the area, but a majority of families did not feel there were enough preschool options available.

The school district does offer a half-day preschool program during the school year.

The survey also showed that the cost of childcare is a concern for many families in the district.

“We need both a quality program and an affordable program,” Smith said.

Smith said that studies indicate that young children who participate in early childhood education programs perform better in school and are more likely to have jobs that pay more as an adult.

Leases must be approved by the state and the new programs are expected to start in September or October.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.

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