Cape early learning program expands reach

District’s youngest learners benefit from comprehensive services
April 15, 2024

Services for Cape district children have expanded with the addition of two positions focused on providing a comprehensive program for early learners.

Sussex Consortium Assistant Principal Dr. Elizabeth Cherico said outreach services provided by Itinerant Preschool Teacher/ASQ Manager Linda Thomas and Family Service Specialist Denise Garcia are fostering strong connections and relationships with district families and future students.

“In addition, they are also assisting Cape families in preparing for kindergarten by offering support with registration and providing a range of age-appropriate activities to participate in,” Cherico said.

Garcia joined Cape in February 2023 after 10 years in a similar role at Indian River School District to help Little Vikings attain licensing that would open opportunities for state funding and grants to serve under-resourced families and children with severe needs.

Little Vikings follows Head Start and federal poverty guidelines and standards, Garcia said, and she assists with securing grants and oversees kids that apply for grant slots.

“I’m a Head Start baby myself, so I understand the importance of partnerships,” she said. “We have your back. We’re here to support your child and you as a parent.”

Right now, Little Vikings has 10 grant slots for children with hopes of securing more, Garcia said, noting the governor just released an increase of slots for state-funded programs and purchase of care rates to provide more early learning funding, resources and support.

Many families are in need, Garcia said, and a lot of people don’t understand that not everyone living in the Cape district is rich. Garcia likens her role to that of a case worker; she visits homes with teachers to get to know families and help them establish goals.

“To truly service the child, you must service the family,” she said.

After many years as a Shields/Lewes Elementary kindergarten teacher, Thomas took on her new role in January 2024. She oversees the Ages and Stages screening program that identifies children who need academic and social skills support, and speech language therapy.

Some kids have never left the home and are not prepared for kindergarten, she said, so the Viking Village Playgroup is geared for children who are not in preschool or daycare so they can socialize with other children.

The group meets alternative weeks at Milton, Lewes and Rehoboth libraries and is open to district children ages 3-5 to enjoy cooperative play, story time, art and music led by district personnel.

“Early intervention is important to ensure they have a better start in school,” Thomas said.

Thomas also reaches families through the district’s Bookmobile, which visits neighborhoods throughout the summer to bring free books and meals to children from birth to fifth grade, and by visiting local preschools.

“Every day is different,” she said. “It’s nice to make connections between the school district and daycares.”

Garcia agreed. “It’s our vision to provide a comprehensive system, and partnerships with child care centers and anyone who serves children to support families and children,” she said.

For more information about the district’s early learning initiatives, go to

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