By Chad Frey

Newton Kansan

Two early childhood programs at Cooper Education Center are experiencing the same limitation — Parents as Teachers and the Infant/Toddler Program.

Both serve children before they get to school age, both with home visits.

And both are struggling with a lack of bi-lingual staff for home visits.

"There is a need, and we have had people in the past who could provide that — but we have not been able to keep those people," said administrator Mary Beasly.

The need for bi-lingual staff is born out by numbers — there are 49 non-English speakers enrolled in programs at Cooper Early Education Center. The center has a total enrollment of 220 students.

For programs within the building there are three Spanish speaking paraeducators, and six staff members who speak Spanish.

"We are fortunate that we hired good paras that also speak Spanish,"said Jason Chalashtari, early childhood administrator for Newton USD 373.

However, at this time there is not bi-lingual staff for home visits.

When staff is headed to a non-English speaking home, there are options.

Sometimes there is an older child who can translate for parents. Sometimes staff can pull and administrator or a translator to go with them.

"We manage," Beasley said.

She said it's also not optimal. The last time there was bilingual staff was about two years ago.

Right now Parents As Teachers serves about 90 families with children birth through age three. The program is designed to help provide educational and developmental screenings for children, and support for parents as they prepare children for school. There currently is a "short" waiting list according to program staff.

Infant Toddler Services provides services to special needs children who are referred to the program. Currently there are 50 children in the program. Infant Toddler Services is part of the Special Education Cooperative and currently services children in Newton, Hesston, Burrton, Sedgwick and Moundridge.