Planning Ahead Leads to Danbury’s "Just Right” Head Start Center

Just like Goldilocks found the chair, porridge and bed that were “just right,” kids from the Head Start program at Mill Ridge Educational Center, found their new facility on Foster Avenue “built to order” with their needs in mind. The plan was in the works for years. Danbury Connecticut School officials wanted to consolidate Head Start programs scattered throughout the city and create a comprehensive site to better serve the needs of low-income children ages 3 to 5 from Danbury and the surrounding areas.

Increasing school-age enrollment created a demand for more space than was available in the city schools where Head Start programs were located. Danbury also sought a solution to overcrowding at its two middle schools. Two 300-student academy programs will make their home at the now former Head Start site at Mill Ridge. The work was financed with a $4 million state grant and a $4 million city bond.

The new Foster Avenue building has 16 classrooms, four for Early Head Start classes that serve 32 children from ages 6 weeks to 2 years, and the rest for the preschool students. Danbury has one of the few purpose-built Head Start facilities existing in the United States, serving 347 children, including 48 preschoolers funded by a state School Readiness grant. Head Start will continue to run two classrooms at the Laurel Garden housing development.

The new location brings Head Start downtown, making it more convenient for parents. Field trips to the library and City Hall are now a walk across the block. Head Start's nutrition, job coaching and other support services are there, too. The site includes a health suite for a nurse's office and dental chair, offices for the education manager, disability manager and health manager, a conference room, small meeting rooms, an on-site laundry facility and a kitchen.