A community approach is one in which schools, organizations and individuals, including parents, join together to plan for the well-being of all four-year-old children and the larger early care and education system that serves children birth through age five. This community collaboration brings different entities to the table and encourages creative, flexible thinking. Comprehensive community planning provides a systematic approach that coordinates efforts and minimizes the barriers that undermine access to quality preschool.
Effective collaboration between school district leaders and other key community stakeholders can result in high-quality preschool programs that benefit children, families, providers and the community in significant ways. Collaboration looks different in each community, dependent upon existing early childhood program resources, available space and the willingness of all involved to understand the perspective of others and create new ways of serving children and families.
This approach offers possibilities to entwine public and private fiscal resources in order to use community-wide resources more effectively and efficiently. Doing so can provide many benefits to children, families, schools and communities.
A community approach includes the involvement of Child Development Services to ensure the provision of inclusive environments and services to children with special needs.
As part of the application process, school districts are required to collaborate with other local early childhood programs (Head Start, child care centers, family child care programs, nursery schools, Even Start programs) in order to understand the unique needs of each community and determine the best way in which to offer a preschool program
Community Partners. The following organizations make community collaboration possible:
- Child Care Choices
- Maine Department of Education Child Development Services
- Maine Families Home Visiting Program Grantees (PDF)
Key Elements of Community Collaboration
- Uses a holistic approach
- Demands active involvement of all players
- Seeks systems that promote and recognize quality
- Utilizes equitable financing that ensures access for all children
- Encourages an effective system of early childhood professional development
Collaboration and Community approaches can:
- Increase the capacity of communities to serve more children, making a preschool experience available to all children
- Result in higher-quality learning programs and more cost-effective use of resources, materials, staff and space
- Provide more comprehensive services to children and families
- Create inclusive preschool classrooms
- Provide quality learning resources and efforts to children in a variety of settings
- Result in fewer daily transitions for some children by allowing them to stay in one setting that blends preschool experiences with child care needs
- Preserve the health of the child care system in the community while generating additional State funds to educate four-year olds
- Unite communities around the needs of young children and their families
There are a number of approaches that schools can use to operate a public preschool program. Schools can:
- Operate and maintain a public preschool program within their school facility and staffed by school personnel.
- Operate and maintain a public preschool program in a community location other than the public school and staffed by school personnel.
- Maintain a public preschool program within their school facility and sub-contract the operational aspects of the program to a community partner.
- Sub-contract with an existing community-based program to offer a public preschool program in a community-based setting.
- Send school personnel to a community-based program.
- Partner with a community agency to offer a braided program, sharing resources from both programs, operating in a single or multiple locations.
Note: Parents should also be involved in your planning process.