New Home for Coeur d'Alene Programs
PLUMMER, Idaho - Five educational programs were brought together under one
roof when a new building opened last winter on the Coeur d'Alene
Reservation. These programs include early Head Start for infants and
toddlers, Head Start for 3- and 4-year-old youngsters, child care ranging
from 6 weeks to 13 years, First Step which is a screening program to
determine if a child has special needs, and Even Start which is an adult
program for those needing to improve literacy abilities.
Chee Chee Picotte was named director for the school and Department of Early
Childhood. Shawna Daniels, Ida Gastin and Selene Hall are program managers
heading up individual programs. The first three are Coeur d'Alene tribal
members and Hall is from the Isleta Pueblo.
Prior to the building opening, the various programs were scattered, making
continuity between programs somewhat difficult. As Daniels said, "I think
it was a huge accomplishment for the tribe to be able to have all these
programs under one roof. This will make a huge difference for families in
being able to collaborate with other programs. I think it can provide a lot
more high quality services."
Funding was provided by a HUD grant, gaming monies and the USDA. The
building can comfortably handle about 100 youngsters and that total was
reached this first spring. Two teachers work together in each classroom to
provide the care and instruction required. The building was designed to be
enlarged and funding is available to do so.
Director Picotte explained that early Head Start and Head Start first take
the children with special needs followed by foster children and children of
low-income families. Not only are the youngsters in school but they follow
up with home visits to ensure the youngsters are receiving what they need
at home as well. She added that they are now beginning to look at
children's mental health issues to make sure they're developing socially as
well as academically.
Picotte added "The best thing that happened when they all came together is
we now take the curriculum used in Head Start and use it in child care so
all our children are getting the same instruction across the board. The
Coeur d'Alene Tribe is very interested in making sure that their children
get whatever they need so having this whole collaboration in this building
gives the children a good quality pre-school experience."
The school must follow state mandated early learning guidelines. Children
must be brought to a certain level, Picotte described it as "ready to
learn" to get them prepared to begin school. After youngsters graduate from
Head Start, usually between age 4 and 5, they move on to kindergarten which
is held in the neighboring towns of Worley and Desmet.