Preschool for more


CHAMPAIGN-URBANA — A bigger space for preschool is making a big difference for three different programs. All three are now equipped to make sure more kids have the chance to go to preschool.

Urbana Head Start, Urbana Early Childhood School and Bright Starts all serve the same need. They’re working as a team to give as many children as possible a chance to kick start their future.

An expression goes, “Everything you need to know, you’ll learn in kindergarten.” Others argue, there’s a lot to learn before that.

“Preschool is very important to the development of children starting at the youngest age, that early intervention,” said Cris Vowels, principal of the Urbana Early Childhood School.

“It would be wonderful to have every student, every child in a preschool program,” said Junior League of Champaign-Urbana president, Jen Romine

In Champaign-Urbana, not all kids could have that chance. 

“Urbana Head Start, as well as my program, Urbana Early Childhood, we both have waiting lists,” said Vowels.

Vowels says no child should be denied the chance for a head start. That’s where Jen Romine’s organization stepped in.

“We were trying to meet a need for preschool that wasn’t being met in our community,” said Romine.

The Junior League coined its solution Bright Starts. It opened its doors to any child who got caught on those wait lists, and it’s not just the kids who get to learn.

“It also helps the parents,” said Romine. “They come and they get instruction on what they need to do to help their students prepare for kindergarten.”

Now, even more can get the chance to prep. Urbana’s Head Start program more than doubled its size with its move to a new building. There are now seven preschool classrooms and several aren’t full yet.

Providing preschool for all is no small task, but Vowels says, this is a positive step forward for everyone on the team.  

“Bright Starts, Urbana Head Start and Urbana Early Childhood School, we all work very collaboratively to serve the same families and to serve all of Urbana. Anytime that any of us can expand and reach more students, it’s good for everyone,” said Vowels.

The Bright Starts program also serves kids from Champaign. Romine said she’s hoping Champaign’s Head Start program is able to expand more in the future as well.

Urbana Head Start used to only have three classrooms. Now it has seven and each one can accommodate 18 kids. In the fall, each preschool classroom will run from 7:30 am – to 5:30 pm. 

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