Head Start building planned at Lochearn Council action expected

facility will ease commute for youngest learners

December 15, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Spending an hour on a bus each way going to Head Start is tough for 4-year-olds, but that trek will end in September for children in Baltimore County's Liberty Road corridor.

The Baltimore County Council is scheduled to approve money tonight to help create a Head Start building and program at the Campfield Early Learning Center near Lochearn for 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families, 102 children in all.

And Christine Ader-Soto, director of child care and family services for the YMCA, which operates eight other federally funded Head Start programs in the county, says Campfield and Head Start should operate hand-in-glove.

She said some children spend well over an hour on the bus traveling from their homes along Liberty Road to the nearest Head Start centers in Catonsville or Reisterstown. "This will really help that area," she said.

The county is to contribute $130,000 it received under a federal block grant toward construction of the 7,000-square-foot modular building that will rise next spring at Campfield, in the 6800 block Alter Street off Liberty Road.

The rest of the $860,475 cost will be paid directly by the federal government.

The Campfield and Head Start programs should prove a good match.

Campfield is unique in the county system because it serves 381 children from infants to age 5, including some who need special education help, school officials say. The school helps prepare children -- some literally from birth -- to enter first grade, often at nearby Bedford Elementary.

Head Start tries to do exactly what its name suggests -- give young children from poor families help in learning their colors, letters, social skills and how to behave and learn in school.

The county has Head Start programs in Essex-Middle River, Turners Station, Eastpoint, Fullerton, Hillendale, Reisterstown, Catonsville and in Lansdowne.

The northwestern county is the only area without a Head Start program, and though the Campfield neighborhood looks like a classic, leafy, prosperous suburb, there are pockets of poverty throughout the area, Ader-Soto said.

"We serve less than 20 percent of children eligible by income," she said. "The need continues to grow in Baltimore County."

Help such as Head Start is crucial for low-income children, said P. David Fields, county community conservation director. He noted that Head Start begins working with children even younger than the 4-year-olds in Campfield's pre-kindergarten classes. "They need attention and help before that," Fields says.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger shares that view. Friday, at the opening of a new social services employment office in Towson, he cited the need to reach young children early and put them on the path toward happy, productive lives.

"That's our future, the future of America," he said.

The new building will be similar to a 5-year-old modular building at Riverview Elementary School in Lansdowne.

Ader-Soto said 3-year-olds who do not go to pre-kindergarten classes will be able to go to a Play Keepers day care center that will also operate in the Head Start building.

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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