LAGUNA BEACH : Head Start Funds for Preschool OKd

The Laguna Beach Unified School District next month will begin a federally funded Head Start program for preschool children, school officials said this week.

The district received word Monday from Head Start officials in Santa Ana that a Laguna Beach program would be funded, said Robert Klempen, district director of instructional services.

"We're extremely elated we received it, and there's no doubt this is going to make a big difference in more effectively preparing our children for kindergarten and first grade," Klempen said.

Volunteers began canvassing neighborhoods last fall to identify youngsters who could benefit from the program, which prepares 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families for school.

When the district filed its application in December, volunteers and school officials were optimistic that a Laguna Beach program would be approved for the coming school year. But as the district awaited an answer, one volunteer said Tuesday that she had begun to wonder whether the program would start in September.

"I was so excited yesterday when they talked to me and told me it was a go for September, I mean, at this late date," said Alice Graves, a member of the city's Cross-Cultural Task Force, which lobbied hard for the program. "Believe me, this is all last-minute and it's going to be a flurry, but I think for a community like Laguna Beach it certainly is an asset. . . ."

A Head Start teacher, school officials and volunteers will now begin enrolling children and preparing their families for the program, which will be conducted at the Top of the World Elementary School, Graves said.

The program will begin with 17 students and expand to accommodate 34 youngsters during the 1992-93 school year, Klempen said. Funding will provide teachers, materials, buses and, if necessary, a portable classroom, he said.

School officials say they expect to begin the program the third week in September.

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