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Charles City Head Start remodels, expands space and hours

Charles City Head Start remodels, expands space and hours
Employees with the NICAO Head Start Program in Charles City include Allison Hocking, Melissa Nelson, Natasha Thomas, Trena Cox and Cindy Davis. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

The classroom is double the size, there’s a new dividing wall, new sinks and storage cabinets, a new entrance for parents and all new flooring.

Soon, there will be a new playground.

The Charles City NICAO Head Start program, located in the TLC building at 404 N. Jackson, is here to stay. The work was completed at the end of October, and Head Start held an open house on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re excited we were able to do it, and we wanted to invite the community out … and the children and families we serve,” Director Melissa Nelson said.

Nelson explained that last year Head Start had an opportunity to expand the length of day and the time the children attend through a “duration grant.”

“The 3-year olds at the Charles City location are able to attend schools for a minimum of 1,020 hours in a school year,” she said. “By doing that, we were able to renovate this side of the building.”

Head Start was previously on the other side of the building, with a much smaller classroom.

“It allows us to separate our rest time from our classroom activities,” said Nelson, who said children now attend four days per week from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays.

“They receive breakfast, lunch, snack and rest time,” Nelson said. “They are able to utilize the new space.”

The space that was remodeled and renovated was previously offices for the AEA, which moved out years ago, and the area was unoccupied. The new playground will be on the back side of the building. An interior doorway was added so that restroom space may be shared with TLC and there now is a new entrance to the classroom for parents, “so they don’t have to walk through the entire space to get there.”

With possibility of The Learning Center (TLC) moving, Nelson wanted to let everyone know that Head Start will still be there — and possibly expanding.

“TLC is looking at possibly moving out as soon as they get their new space renovated. As that happens, I’ll be looking for additional grant opportunities to expand,” Nelson said. She said Head Start recently conducted a community survey and community needs assessment, and “it was identified that infant and toddler care is a huge need in Charles City.”

TLC has been working with the Charles City School District to come up with an agreement for the community child care organization to lease space in the newer 1970s portion of the building at 500 N. Grand Ave., the former middle school.

The property on Jackson Street is owned by North Iowa Community Action, and beyond Head Start and TLC having space here, the family development self-sufficiency program and the outreach program for Floyd County is housed there.

“These offices help families with resources and referrals, finding locations within the community for support,” Nelson said. “It’s also our first point of contact for anyone utilizing North Iowa Community Action.”

North Iowa Community Action Organization (NICAO) is one of 18 Community Actions agencies in Iowa. NICAO is a private, not-for-profit organization which maintains office locations and Head Start classrooms in nine North Central Iowa counties.

The organization works to reduce poverty by focusing local, state, private, and federal resources to assist low-income individuals and families acquire useful skills and knowledge, gain access to new opportunities and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Early Head Start programming that serves pregnant women and children up to age 3 is also conducted at the Jackson Street location in Charles City, and Nelson said that if other grants are available to expand Head Start programming, they would utilize the space where the day care is currently located.

“We want to be the first point of contact in the community for people to come in and make sure they are able to get those resources and find out what they need to do within the community to get the help that they need,” she said.