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Niagara Falls High School students head home after the first day of school.

The Niagara Falls School District is receiving a $2.1 million grant over five years as it assumes control of Head Start and Early Head Start services in the city.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was arranged by Congressman Bryan Higgin, (D-NY 26). The district will receive money every year for five years,

“Providing access to early learning puts children on a path to lifelong growth and opportunity,” Higgins said. “This federal funding for Niagara Falls City School District is an investment in the future of our children, families, and community.”

“Our program design leverages the strengths of the district and its community partners in support of successful cradle-to-career outcomes for children and families,” said Falls Superintendent Mark Laurrie. “The city of Niagara Falls has a poverty rate of 46 percent for children under five years. Our EHS/HS staff will reach out to our families with young children living in poverty who are the most at risk.”

Building on nearly 15 years of universal pre-kindergarten experience, school officials said the district is well poised to serve families and children aged birth to five years. Through Head Start and Early Head Start implementation, the Niagara Falls City School District will serve 141 children aged 3-5 years in Head Start and 40 children aged birth-three years in Early Head Start, totaling 181 children under five.

This is in addition to the 520 pre-k three- and pre-k four-year-olds the district already serves. NFCSD will also provide supports for caregivers, including workforce training and parenting classes.

The new program will offer early education, health screenings, social and emotional health, nutrition, social services, and services for children with disabilities and support and resources for families.

Over the next couple of months, NFCSD will partner with the interim Head Start grantee Child Development Institute (CDI) to ensure a seamless transition of services for children and families. In addition, the District will take over five buildings that Head Start currently maintains.

Head Start and Early Head Start programs are based on a national model that provides a comprehensive education for children ages zero to five. Focusing on early development, health, and family well-being, the program engages children and families in the early learning process to promote school readiness.

At least 90 percent of the children enrolled in each Head Start program must be from families who meet federally regulated income guidelines. In addition, up to 10 percent of the enrollment opportunities in each program are made available to children with disabilities. There are no family fees for Head Start or Early Head Start services.

Since its inception in 1965, Head Start programs have served more than 36 million children. Compared to their peers, children who participated in Head Start are more likely to excel academically in high school and attend college after they graduate.

In addition, a study conducted in California showed that every dollar invested in Head Start creates a $9 return through increased earnings, employment, and family stability and decreased government assistance, crime, and special education costs.

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