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History of Heartland Early Education

Salina Head Start opened at Hawthorne School in Salina, serving 36 children.

Expanded into Dickinson County and began work to open two classrooms in Abilene and Enterprise.

Moved into the former Kennedy Elementary building (Salina). Expansion continued into Ellsworth  County and Herington.

Received funding to add space and provide Early Head Start services (birth to age three).

Federal funds were received to start Child Care Partnerships with local community child care centers in Salina, Herington and Abilene. Seventy-five home-based slots were added. 

Kansas Early Head Start and State-Funded At-Risk Preschool grants were received.

Salina built four new classrooms, larger kitchen facility and a multipurpose room. Renovations started on a modular building for pregnant teens and teen parents on the Salina Central High School Campus, referred to as HELP.  

Heartland Early Learning Program (HELP) infant/toddler center opened at Central High School. Heartland Adult Literacy program started offering ESL and GED classes to parents of Head Start students. 

USD 305 Parents as Teachers (PAT) started.

Cornerstone Child Care Center, through collaboration with the Ashby House homeless shelter, opened.  

Korey Hensley, Heartland Programs Director, retired after 24 years of service. Lesa Larson became the next Director, July 2013.

Salina voters approved a $110.7 million bond issue. Improvements planned for Heartland included: constructing a new classroom (at the Kennedy building) for the high school program, adding two storm shelters and office entry renovations to allow for controlled entry.

Heartland re-branded and changed from ‘Heartland Programs’ to ‘Heartland Early Education’. Our mission statement was changed to read: “Heartland Early Education’s mission is to inspire and empower children and families through quality education.” 

Received duration funding allowing us to serve children for longer hours. Two Part Day School Year (PDSY) classrooms converted into four School Day School Year (SDSY) classrooms. Analysis of the SDSY program option has shown higher enrollment retention. Cornerstone collaboration with Ashby House ended due to the inability to appropriately staff the location.

KPREP, therapeutic preschool program, was implemented through a partnership between the district’s special education cooperative (CKCIE), Central Kansas Mental Health Center (CKMHC), Salina Public Schools and Heartland Early Education. This program served four year olds who had been excluded from a regular preschool or childcare setting because of emotional or behavioral problems. 

Received funds to continue the Preschool-Aged At-Risk program; also received Kansas Preschool Pilot (KPP) funds for enhancement. Staffing and resources were combined with CKCIE to serve children with special needs and at-risk four-year-olds in inclusive classrooms in elementary buildings.

In March, it became necessary for schools to shut down for the duration of the school year due to the coronavirus. Family consultants continued home visits virtually and classroom staff set up private Facebook pages offering 15-30 minute educational experiences until school officially ended in May.  CARES Act funding was available; we received thermometers, gloves, cleaning supplies,  technology, hot spots, materials for learning packets along with salaries for summer school staff.

Staffing shortages became apparent and Heartland was forced to close three classrooms. However, in order to reach the federal duration requirements, a Head Start classroom opened at Salina Education Center (SEC). Heartland was approved for a reduction of 45 federal slots for the following school year.

Three Salina classrooms remained closed due to staffing shortage.

Three Salina classrooms remained closed. Abilene Classroom closed due to the expansion of their school district preschool programming. K-Prep classroom closed and services restructured. A pay increase for hourly classroom staff was approved by Policy Council and USD 305 Board of Education, with wages starting at $15.71.