With San Benito County’s particularly high demand for early-childhood education, a new Head Start school for pre-school-age children is being built near Calaveras School in Hollister.
The $1.5 million project broke ground May 8. The three-classroom school will include 3,840 square feet of building space on a property that totals about 8,000 square feet, said Adolfo Pando, a manager in the Santa Clara County Office of Education, which partners with the local office on administering federal Head Start programs.
The new federally funded public school site is next to Calaveras Park, which also neighbors the Accelerated Achievement Academy off Buena Vista Road on the west side. It will complement the other Head Start facility in Hollister at R.O. Hardin School, which has four classrooms each serving about 20 students, Pando said.
There’s a growing need locally because San Benito County has a relatively high demand for the services aimed at low-income residents, and there remains a waiting list at R.O. Hardin of about 20-30 students, said Pando. School officials, meanwhile, hope to have the Buena Vista Road facility finished by August in time for next school year.
The new site would accommodate up to 24 students in each classroom, or 72 more pre-schoolers ages 3-5, while there remains an offering for children ages 0-3 that is home based.
Head Start Head is a “comprehensive child development program for young children and families living below the federal poverty level,” according to the 2019 Head Start Community Assessment document. The program includes early childhood education, health and nutrition services, parent education, and social service support.
Antonio Fuentes, director for early learning services with the Santa Clara County office, explained how San Benito County has a greater demand – per capita – than the neighboring, much larger county. The education officials decided to build a new facility because there was a shortage of sites with adequate licensing requirements, he said.
While San Benito County used to administer its own Head Start program, the two counties joined together about a quarter-century ago to achieve economies of scale.
“We’ve been trying to build this facility in San Benito County for about two and a half years,” Fuentes said.
There were some doubts due to complications with the federal grant process and bidding requirements. Fuentes said he did not want to have to tell the Hollister community that the funding fell through, with an initial June 30 deadline to get the facility built. His office, though, found a way to convince the feds to extend out the deadline and allow the project to go forward.
Now the goal is to have the site built by mid-July and opened by Aug. 19 for the 2019-20 school year, Fuentes said. In the meantime, the education office will be working to get the facility licensed as well, Fuentes said.
“I am on a mad dash because we’ve got guarantees from the current person it will be done by mid-July, which would put me in line to open Aug. 19,” Fuentes said. “It is tight, but I am working towards that goal.”
More from the 2019 Head Start Community Assessment
- In Santa Clara County, an average of 11% of children ages 0-4 years are living below poverty. This applies to 17% of children ages 0-4 in San Benito County. When compared to the Head Start slots that are available, it is estimated that the program is able to serve 27% of eligible children in Santa Clara and 28% of eligible children in San Benito (see Table 14). Early Head Start is able to serve an estimated 2% of eligible children in Santa Clara and 5.5% of eligible children in San Benito.
- Nearly seven percent of San Benito County’s general population is under 5 years old; there are 3,919 children age four years old and younger in the county.
- Unlike Santa Clara County, births in San Benito are projected to increase by 7%, from 720 children in 2015 to 775 by 2020.
- The proportion of Hispanic children in San Benito County is 2 times that of Santa Clara. Approximately 70% of children ages 0-5 years in San Benito are Hispanic. Caucasians account for nearly 25% of the child population.
- Fourteen percent of households with children in San Benito County have children under 6 years old, ten percentage points lower than Santa Clara County.
- Rates for female-headed single-parent households in San Benito County are nearly twice that of Santa Clara County.
- When compared to the Head Start slots that are available, it is estimated that the program is able to serve 27% of eligible children in Santa Clara and 28% of eligible children in San Benito (see Table 14). Early Head Start is able to serve an estimated 2% of eligible children in Santa Clara and 5.5% of eligible children in San Benito.