Head Start moving into former Streater building, expanding offerings

Published 9:20 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

Head Start in Albert Lea is preparing to move into a new office space at the old Streater building on South First Avenue from its current location inside Brookside Education Center.

According to Angie Kallberg, associate director of Head Start in Albert Lea and Olmstead counties, the current space consists of two classrooms licensed for up to 20 preschoolers. One of those rooms serves two half-day classes. Last year, there were 54 preschoolers between the two classrooms.

It’s her hope to add infant and child opportunities as well.

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“In many ways we look like a day care center, children’s center,” Kallberg said. “I feel like our program adds just a little bit more above and beyond.”

Head Start also tries to meet families where they are and where they’re comfortable to adapt their services to a particular family’s needs.

To that effect, their curriculum is designed to set goals with families regarding child development. They also provide dental checkups for all children within a family.

“Even if that child is not enrolled in our program, their siblings are going to benefit also,” she said.

According to Kallberg, within Albert Lea Head Start has been a preschool program that provides education to families who may otherwise be unable to afford preschool for their child.

“Families that have lower incomes would be able to apply for education services for their children,” she said.

The program also offers a weekly, home-based service for expecting mothers through children up to 3. During that time, they’ll discuss the child’s development, how it is progressing and what a parent could look forward to regarding future developmental stages.

In deciding to move, Kallberg said she loved the partnership between Head Start and Albert Lea Area Schools.

“It is a huge benefit to have the Early Childhood Special Education program right here physically on site to be able to work with and communicate with for those children that need those services,” she said.

She was also appreciative of the custodial staff, as well as the district, for sharing a kitchen.

“They’ve been wonderful working with us,” she said. “It’s been a great partnership.”

But with more programs moving into the building, and Head Start looking to expand with infant and toddler services, they needed more space.

Their offices are also currently on the second floor, but to be able to provide services to infants, Head Start needed to be on the main floor.

She hopes the new site will also allow for center-based options for children 6 weeks to age 5.

She’s already in communication with their future neighbor, United Way of Freeborn County, in determining ways to serve the community together.

Following construction completion, a building inspector, licenser and fire marshal will have to inspect it.

“There’s a lot of steps to the process just to make sure that it’s going to be the safest it can be for the kids that we’re going to serve there,” she said.

It’s her hope to start services by Jan. 1.

The new space will have two physical preschool classrooms, an infant classroom, a toddler classroom, a kitchen area and seven office spaces.

Most important will be having a center-based option for early Head Start families, which includes anyone from expectant mothers through children 3 years old.

“We know that Albert Lea has a huge need for infant and toddler care,” she said, noting having the space could allow people to return to work with their child in a safe space.

She also said they had seen the need for infant and toddler care and was excited to prove this opportunity to both existing families as well as new families.

And there are the potential benefits of being right next to United Way of Freeborn County.

“Parents being able to pick up their children and go walk through the Welcome Pantry,” she said. “We’re excited to work with United Way.”

Kallberg said they had looked around Albert Lea for years to find a space, adding it was hard to find a space that could house both the current preschool program and the infant and toddler space.

After 411 1st LLC — owners of the building — began advertising the space, she reached out for a tour, where she determined it was the first realistic place that could house everything she wanted.

“I connected with Noel Eggebraaten, … one of the owners of that company, and right away he had a huge interest in our dream, and also wanted to contribute to the needs of our community,” she said.

Anyone interested in applying should visit the Head Start website, familesfirstmn.org. There are also hard-copy applications outside of their Brookside office, 227.

They can also call Site Coordinator Joleen Anderson at 507-923-8524.

Once they’re moved, the new physical address will be 411 S. First Ave.