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Head Start may set up on east side

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By Don Pace

West Las Vegas Head Start director Joseph Griego said he has been listening to pleas from parents on the other side of the river asking to bring classrooms closer to home.

The East and West school districts are working to do just that, he said.

“Each year I have to do a community and program assessment, which is a report on what our community and parents are telling us are their needs from Head Start,” Griego said.

“Years before I arrived, people have been saying in their assessments that they need Head Start classrooms on the (east) side of town. Annually, we transition between 60 and 80 kids to the Las Vegas City Schools, so we have never competed with the district because those children already live on that side of town. Having a center on the east side just makes sense,” Griego said.

Griego said since he’s been at the helm, he’s been pinpointing where these families live and what they were saying. He said what they were telling Head Start was practical and doable.

“So we began trying to develop a partnership with Las Vegas City Schools to decide where we were going to put the kids because we weren’t getting any money to build or buy new facilities. I had to find existing facilities, so in collaboration with Associate Superintendent Lee Ette Quintana, we are coming up with a plan that parents have been asking for all these many years,” Griego said. “I think we’ve finally got a final draft of a memorandum of understanding.”

Quintana told the Las Vegas City school board at its last regular meeting that eastside students attending the West Las Vegas Head Start program really belong to the City Schools district.

“It’s costing them a huge amount of money to transport children who live in our district all the way over there and back. So transportation is one of the key reasons why they want to partner with us,” Quintana said.

Quintana said it’s likely that three pre-kindergarten classes will go to Los Nios Elementary School.

“Head Start will be providing the personnel. They already have the teachers in place, so if we can come to terms on a few things in the memorandum of understanding, it would just require them moving the classrooms to Los Nios,” Quintana said.

Quintana pointed out that the agreement needs some fine-tuning, especially in the area of transportation, but she said the district is hoping by next month that there will be a document for school board members to review and consider.

Superintendent Rick Romero told the board that all staff and teachers coming over to Los Nios would be subject to City Schools’ policies and procedures.

“I think it would be to our benefit to keep our children in the district, which would allow for their transition to first grade that much easier. They’re already in the building and are familiar with the surroundings and our rules, and I see this as a win-win situation for everybody involved,” Romero said.

Regarding the transportation issue, Griego said Head Start has never mandated that be a part of the district’s responsibility, but those districts that can afford to bus kids do.

“We left it out of the MOU because the cost of fuel has become a major issue, even for the state. If they want to provide transportation for their children they can; if they don’t, it’s not a requirement. Right now I’m running three buses that carry 45 to 60 students, and I’m literally bringing in maybe 10 kids on each bus. For the last several years, federal officials have said West Las Vegas is not using the money wisely and to start utilizing that (transportation) money for direct instruction versus transportation,” Griego said.