The new Head Start building at Friday Harbor Elementary School is inching closer to completion, although San Juan Head Start Center Manager Sarah Werling said the completion date is still unknown.
The construction of this new three-classroom modular building allows for more students to have access to early learning education, resources, and support. The previous building proved not to be sufficient enough for the students in need of these services as it could not meet demand. The old modular building was moved from the elementary school to the high school, while the new building has filled the previous Head Start lot at the elementary school.
“We’re excited about the progress so far and eagerly anticipating completion,” said Mary Ellen Lykins, Skagit Valley College director of Early Learning Grant Programs. “The modulars have all been delivered and moved into place, and we’re nearing the completion of getting utilities and kitchen equipment installed and a finalized plan for internet installation. We’re also looking forward to hosting a grand opening upon completion.”
Constructing a new building on the island is a little different than it may be on the mainland, as locals may have witnessed large pieces of the new building loading off of the ferry, along with trying to coordinate with an ever-complicated ferry system. Some of the most recent updates include four sections of the facility arriving in San Juan Island from the ferry on the week of Oct. 4-8, marking the last of the modulars to arrive, as Lykins had mentioned. The expense of transporting these pieces is also very high.
According to Werling, the total budget for the new building was $1.25 million. San Juan Island Community Foundation raised $191,000 from the San Juan Island community to make it possible to have three classrooms rather than two. With the three classrooms, the program can serve up to 28 children.
Werling said that despite dealing with ferry difficulties while getting the modulars delivered and the steep price of shipping them to the island, it is all well worth it as students will reap many benefits.
Head start services include early learning and development, nutrition, health, and dental well-being, mental health, support for disabilities, and family services.
According to Skagit Valley College, “Head Start was established in 1965 and is a federally funded comprehensive program that serves vulnerable children and families who are dealing with poverty, homelessness, and a number of factors that can impact children’s healthy development.” The program reaches families with children prenatally to five and prepares children to reach kindergarten ready-to-learn.”
“This project could not have become a reality had it not been for the strong community partnerships and the outpouring of support from our generous donors. It has been incredible to witness how this community came together and collectively invested in early childhood education,” said Werling. “I am beyond excited for our Head Start children, families, and staff and I look forward to reopening for in-person services soon.”
The Journal is in contact with Werling and further updates on the construction progress will be posted until completion.