by Nicole Blais, Director of Community Engagement

Educare Springfield, nestled within the Old Hill neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts and sandwiched between Brookings Elementary and Springfield College, opened its doors in January of 2020 and welcomed 141 children and their families into the state-of-the-art facility. During the excitement at the open house, one mom said, “it’s like dropping her (child) off to baby college.” The new school has 12 spacious classrooms and staff worked enthusiastically on their classrooms to get them ready for the children’s arrival.

This unique community collaboration is made up of The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, HCS Head Start, Inc. and Springfield College. HCS Head Start is the early learning partner and employs all of the education and support staff.

Based upon the Head Start Performance Standards, Educare builds in quality enhancements with financial support from community partners. The model is based on research from early childhood development, education, social work and other associated fields and is comprised of four core features: data utilization, embedded professional development, high-quality teaching practices and intensive family engagement.

Educare schools start early with an emphasis on prenatal services birth-to-three, uses research-based methods, data-driven practices, requires high staff qualifications, provides intensive staff development, implements reflective practices and supervision, provides full day/full year services, maintains high staff-child ratios and small class sizes, and on-site family support services.

Educare Schools also serve as a platform to inform and promote the importance of investing in early education, to leverage public and private investment in early childhood, to raise standards of education quality, and to encourage and engage in policy and systems change over time.

HCS Head Start’s very own Narayani Sivalingam will serve as Educare’s School Director and we could not be happier. Narayani has been with us since 2003 working as a Teacher Director and diligently working her way up the career ladder from Site Director to Education Operations Manager, which has led her to this point in her successful career as an early childhood educator in Head Start.

Charged with overseeing the teachers and the support staff working within the school, Nara, as she is affectionately called, is eager to work alongside the new Educare Executive Director, Nikki Burnett, and with the staff, children and families on this once in a lifetime opportunity. As she puts it, Educare is the icing on the cake for a veteran educator like herself. Although the pandemic forced the school to offer both in-person and remote learning opportunities, the staff at Educare are doing their best to provide high quality services to families and looking forward to safely reopening all of the classrooms.