By Kimberly Wallis

Often, our transitioning military families aren’t even aware that everyone is encouraged to apply
for early childhood education programs (ECE) at Fort Polk. Although local public programs are
specifically geared toward lower income families, there may be additional spaces available for
children from families with higher earnings, potentially making the time spent on the application
process well worth it!

Photo Credits: VPSB HS & B5
A child, participating in a Vernon Parish early childhood educational program, plays outside.

While we may hate the thought of our babies growing up too fast, early childhood education
(ECE) allows parents to provide financially while still being part of a team working to put their
child on the path to success during their entire educational journey. Many dual earner and single
parent families alike take advantage of the affordable, high quality daycare programs offered
locally to get help with providing the basic skills their children need before entering
Studies show long-term benefits of ECE include being more likely to graduate high school,
attend college, less likely to be incarcerated, less likely to require public assistance, and earning
higher wages. Recognizing the importance of early education as a long term solution towards
combating low education rankings and high poverty levels, Louisiana legislators recently
advanced a bill making the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission permanent and
Governor John Bel Edwards’ agenda called for more funding at every level of education,
including ECE.

Photo credits: VPSB HS & B5 Josiah enjoys his treats during snack time at the early childhood education program he attends in Vernon Parish.

Socialization is another benefit to enrolling, especially if you’re new to an area! It’s always nice
to get to know others in the area with kids the same age as yours.
Just as children are presented with socialization opportunities they might not otherwise have,
parents gain access to information about other beneficial community services through
interaction with both school staff and other parents. For instance, children are monitored to
ensure they are meeting developmental milestones in order to help parents seek early
intervention when necessary. Special needs children are also served in these programs.
There are two programs offered at the two school districts that service Fort Polk. Louisiana’s

Photo credits: VPSB HS & B5
Layla smiles about the books on display at her Vernon Parish School District early childhood education program.

primary preschool program, Cecil J. Picard LA4, provides full day pre-K in public schools to four-
year-olds from disadvantaged families. Head Start is a federal program that promotes the

school readiness of children aged birth through five from low-income families.
Vernon Parish Head Start and Beauregard Parish Head Start both offer child development
programs for children from age 3 to 4 years old and Early Head Start for children from birth to 3
years old. Please note that transportation is not available in Beauregard Parish School District
and Vernon Parish School District only provides school buses for 4 year olds.
Filling out the application does not guarantee your child will be able to attend. However, an
incomplete application or lack of required documentation may lengthen the process or even
disqualify your child. Be sure to check with each program for which you are applying about what
you’ll need! The links to each district have been provided in the preceding paragraph to make it
easier to check out what you’ll need and where it’s offered.

Photo credits: VPSB HS & B5
A child enjoys a Hatch tablet utilized as part of the early childhood educational program in the Vernon Parish School District.

In the Vernon Parish School District, applications are conveniently located outside the office at
1409 South 4th Street in Leesville. You can fill it out at your convenience but must turn it in
between 8:30-11:30 AM, Monday through Thursday. For more information, call the VPSB HS &
B5 office at 337-239-6899.

 Photo credits: VPSB HS & B5
Myles partners with a friend to create a colorful garden scene at their Vernon Parish early childhood education program.

In the Beauregard Parish School District, rated highly proficient for overall measures of
classroom quality by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), you complete this online application. For more information, call (337) 463-5905.

photo credits: VPSB HS & B5
Charlie sports a huge smile on the swings during outside play time at his Vernon Parish early childhood education program.

Sending your child off to school can be hard on some parents (especially first timers!) but
parental involvement is actually encouraged and helps with fostering a lifelong love of learning
in your child. So when you apply, be sure to check out the volunteer opportunities available for
parents as well!

photo credits: VPSB HS & B5
A child plays with different toys as a fun way to work on building his gross motor skills at an early childhood education program in the Vernon Parish School District.