Early Childhood Programs Overview

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"Serving Families so that all Children can Learn and Grow in a Healthy, Nurturing Environment." 


Since 1965, Head Start has served millions of children and families by promoting school readiness; providing comprehensive services; and by emphasizing the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher.

  • The Head Start/Early Head Start program is a federally funded program which provides grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies 
  • The District School Board of Pasco County is a Head Start/Early Head Start grantee offering the program in 21 different elementary schools
  • High quality early childhood services promoting school readiness are offered to enrolled children and families from birth through age 5
  • A minimum of 10 percent of the program's total enrollment must be children with disabilities
  • Head Start is available to ages 3, 4, and 5 while Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers
  • Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services and are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another Pre-K program
  • Head Start/Early Head Start programs encourages and recognizes that parents are their children's primary teachers and advocates

Head Start programs, parents, and schools work together to promote school readiness and engage families as their children make the transition to kindergarten.


  • Head Start provides comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families
  • Special focus is on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school
  • School readiness is promoted by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families
  • Engagement of parents in their children's learning is promoted by assisting them in making progress toward their own educational, literacy and employment goals
  • Support is provided in the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5
  • Services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage
  • Families are engaged in their children's learning and development and are poised to support the lifelong success of their child
  • Relationships are built with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community
  • Comprehensive services are delivered in a learning environment that is individualized to support children's growth and measure the children’s school readiness in the five essential domains of the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework:
    • Language and Literacy
    • Cognition and General Knowledge
    • Approaches to Learning
    • Physical Development and Health
    • Social and Emotional Development
  • Head Start comprehensive services include:
    • Education
    • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
    • Health and safety
    • Social and emotional health
    • Nutrition
    • Family goal-setting
    • Social services
    • Transition services
    • Services for children with disabilities


  • VPK is a state funded early learning program for all four year olds and designed to prepare children for success in kindergarten
  • Eligibility is determined by the State's Office of Early Learning (OEL) and locally overseen by the Pasco-Hernando Early Learning Coalition (PHELC)
  • VPK offers parents a program choice for their four year old of either school year VPK (3 hours a day for 180 days (540 hours)) or summer VPK (300 hours)
  • The school district is limited in classroom space and it is not possible to provide VPK services for all children during a school year
  • In order for the school district to comply with Head Start regulations, priority of preschool enrollment during the school year must be given to children who qualify for Head Start
  • Early Childhood Programs offers VPK during the school year to Head Start children as part of a blended funding model, which includes 540 hours of instruction.

Eligible Pasco County children who do not participate in any school year VPK program have an opportunity to attend Summer VPK (300 hours) offered through the District School Board or private providers. For more information on VPK, as well as a list of providers contact the Pasco-Hernando Early Learning Coalition at www.phelc.org