TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Idaho officials say they will have a hard time adopting new federal standards for a low-income childcare service because they don’t yet have the space.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced new performance standards last week that are designed to improve the Head Start preschool program.

The new standards will have students in classrooms for more hours.

College of Southern Idaho’s Head Start/Early Head Start program Director Mancole Fedder said the hardest thing about the new standards will be finding space to accommodate all children for an entire day, The Times-News reported (http://bit.ly/2ceUVEp). .

“A lot of programs are going to face that challenge,” he said. “We definitely don’t want to cut the available slots.”

In south-central Idaho, there are 484 Head Start and 92 Early Head Start slots at a total of 11 centers. Head Start offers preschool classes, while Early Head Start is for pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age 3.

Under the new guidelines, Head Start will provide center-based services four days a week instead of the two it offered before.

The changes also raised educational standards and require more opportunities for parents to get involved.

“The new standards strengthen educational practices and are based on the best research about how children learn and develop,” HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement last week.

The change in requirements won’t happen all at once. By Aug. 1, 2019, half the students enrolled must receive 1,020 hours of class time a year. And by August 2021, 100 percent of students must receive that amount of instruction.

“It’s quite a jump,” Fedder said.


Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com