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Detroit Lakes Public Schools to join forces with Head Start

There are close to 2,000 preschool-aged children in Becker County. Fewer than 700 attend preschool or kindergarten-readiness programs.

A new partnership between Head Start and the Detroit Lakes School District, approved at the school board's Monday meeting, will aim to fill in that gap.

Those numbers, from a needs assessment done by the Mahube Community Council, were presented to the board along with a program called GreatStart -- a preschool program for Detroit Lakes modeled after one in Park Rapids.

The school board approved using just more than $20,000 to fund the first phase of GreatStart, a small program that will serve 32 new students for half a day during the fall semester of the school year.

Half of the 32 will be taught at Mahube, and half will be at the Lincoln Education Center.

Phase 2, which would essentially double the number of students served, will be reexamined in January.

The main concern expressed by the school board was for Phase 2 and whether the district would have enough space to support the additional children served.

The targeted population of children for the program will be 4-year-olds that turn 5 soon after the start of the school year, and 5-year-olds that have been held back from kindergarten.

The curriculum, according to proposal documents, includes literacy and cognitive development, self-esteem, communication, muscle skill development and promoting health and nutritional development.

Representatives from all parties, including Rossman Elementary School Principal Sandy Nelson, said they would be open to combining other aspects, such as more fitness initiatives, into the curriculum.

Organizers also hope to get federal stimulus dollars to help fund the program - something that Superintendent Doug Froke said is exactly what the stimulus dollars are designed for.

"This is perfect, you use it as a start-up, to get it off the ground," he said at the meeting.