INDIAN HEAD, Md. – Indian Head Elementary School recently celebrated the opening of a Judy Center Early Learning Hub. It is the third Judy Center in the county with the others housed at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School and Eva Turner Elementary School.
“The Judy Centers are unique to the state of Maryland,” Jennifer Gimmel, the Indian Head Judy Center’s coordinator, said. Programs held at the center not only benefit children, but their parents. “It’s a safe place where the needs of children and their families are met,” Gimmel said.
Among the programs held and facilitated at the centers are parent education classes, health services and playgroups. “We have so much research about how the brain develops and play is such an important vehicle for learning,” Maria Navarro, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, said.
Shona Grimes, grandmother of a Turner prekindergarten student, said before her grandson entered school, she searched for activities to keep him engaged and prepare him for school. One day during a visit to the library she heard about the Judy Center. “It seemed too good to be true,” Grimes said. “But it was everything they said and more. Everything they have done to help is as much for the parents as it is for the kids. I can’t imagine where we’d be without the Judy Center.”
Save for a Power Tots program that takes place at the neighboring Village Green, almost all the Indian Head Judy Center programs are held in a colorful modular classroom on the school grounds. The site shares space with the Community School program, which provides support and services to families in need. The Community School program is housed at two schools in the county — Dr. Mudd and Indian Head.
Getting the word out
Prior to launching the center at Indian Head, CCPS pitched the idea to Kevin Lowndes, CCPS chief of teaching and learning. It didn’t take much for him to get on board. “Why would we not do this,” he asked.
Before the start of the 2022-2023 school year, Gimmel and other Judy Center staff started outreach efforts to spread the word about the Judy Center at Indian Head elementary. The center has about 15 children per hourlong playgroup and sets up events during evening hours and other times that are most convenient for working parents. “We don’t follow the traditional school schedule,” Gimmel said, pointing out a recent virtual activity where families made pizzas — after picking up make-your-own-pizza kits from the center — in their own kitchens, following along with Judy Center staff through Zoom.
“They genuinely care about children,” Grimes said. “And they care about families.”
The Judy Center provides services for children from birth to five years old and their families. To attend Judy Center programs, families must live in an area zoned for the center. For more information, click here.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,000 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).