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A Message from Executive Director Yasmina Vinci

March 13, 2020

Dear Head Start Community, 

I write to let you know that the 2020 National Head Start Conference and Expo will not take place in person and we are in the process of transitioning to a fully virtual experience. Over the past several weeks, NHSA has been closely monitoring the spread of this virus and the implications it will have for the health and safety of Head Start children, families, and staff, as well as for the nation and the global community. 

As we find ourselves in a national public health emergency, a global pandemic―so far beyond just the impact on the conference―I want to acknowledge the tremendous impact this time of uncertainty has for each of us.

While, unfortunately, we will not have the opportunity to come together in person in Phoenix this month, it is more important than ever that we come together as a community and keep reaching out to one another with care and compassion. 

In my first message on March 5th, I commented on the amount of ambiguity, uncertainty and confusion that we all were facing. And in that fog of lack of information and conflicting signals from participants―new registrations were happening at the same time as cancellations―our team at NHSA was having innumerable conversations about the course of action regarding the Phoenix conference.

One thing has been clear, however, there is no higher priority to us than your health and safety. We also followed the research closely, and looked for advice from public health experts to do our part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. At the same time we also care deeply about creating valuable opportunities for our community to come together and learn. While we initially believed that the in-person conference in Phoenix could go on for those who still wanted to join, recent events have made it clear that is not a safe option. 

With all of these factors in mind, we reached the decision to move this year’s National Conference online. We are still determining the specific details of the virtual experience, and we will ask for your input and share more information in the coming days.

In making this decision, I want to thank our partners, presenters, and exhibitors, whose hard work and dedication are the backbone of successful events that contribute so much to Head Start. Many of their efforts will be translated into the virtual event, but we know there is no replacement for face-to-face interactions.

Presenters, we know that virtual sessions were not what you had in mind when you agreed to come to Phoenix, and the NHSA team stands ready to work with you to get creative on ways to morph your sessions into successful distance-learning experiences. Exhibitors also play an important role in our shared success, and I ask you to keep them in mind for your program’s needs moving forward.

The National Conference is an important event for all of us (for learning, connecting, and the excitement of gathering as a community), but we also know that there are many other concerns at the top of your mind about the day-to-day operations of your programs.

To that end, NHSA has been active on Capitol Hill, working with decision-makers in Washington to ensure that your programs will have the support necessary to continue your critical work for children and families.

We have also compiled important resources on our website in the areas of health and safety, talking with young children about the current situation, medical information, and program administration resources, and hope that they are helpful to you. 

We are here for you. Please do not hesitate to reach out. Our conference team will respond to your conference-related questions or concerns through annual@nhsa.org.

You are also welcome to contact me directly with any other questions, concerns, or just the need to share some more light-hearted news at yasminavinci@nhsa.org

Thank you for your flexibility as we navigate this difficult time.

 

In partnership,

Yasmina Vinci
Executive Director
National Head Start Association