Federal funding creates playgroups to offer interaction for toddlers

SARANAC - The Saranac Central School District is now hosting two new playgroups for children thanks to federal funding received by Champlain Valley Educational Services.

Through a portion of a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services, CVES has partnered with the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country to offer playgroups at Saranac and Morrisonville elementary schools.

The programs, which are overseen by the council's Family Connections coordinator, Leslie Coulombe, focus on building interaction between children ages 5 and younger with children their own age and with their parents.

"Our goal for these playgroups is really the same for any other playgroup, which is building social and emotional relationships and wellness for the children," said Coulombe. "We're really trying to introduce families into the school at an early age, getting children screened and getting them any services they may need before they go to kindergarten."

The playgroups, which started in Saranac in March and Morrisonville earlier this month, have been well-received, said Coulombe.

"We're seeing a great turnout so far and people are pretty excited about it. Essentially, what we're doing is creating a mini-family resource center in each school district," said Coulombe, adding similar playgroups have been established in the AuSable Valley, Northern Adirondack, Moriah and Ticonderoga central school systems.

The playgroups, Coulombe continued, are designed to meet the criteria of national program Safe Schools/Healthy Students, which the CVES grant is designated to implement on the local level.

"Through the playgroup we're building a relationship with the parents and the children, modeling appropriate interactions and behavior and giving parents some ideas of things they can do at home," said Coulombe. "It all comes together to meet one of the elements of Safe Schools which focuses on early childhood development."

The Saranac Elementary playgroup meets 9-11 a.m. every other Wednesday from May 27-June 10; the Morrisonville Elementary playgroup meets 8:30-10:30 a.m. every other Wednesday from May 20-June 18. Both programs have open enrollment and are of no cost to participants.

Those interested in their child participating in either playgroup are encouraged to contact Coulombe at 561-4999.

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