After a 5 percent reduction in funding as result of federal sequestration in 2013, the Head Start program in Jefferson County will return to the 2012-13 funding level of $2.1 million.
Once a new Head Start school year begins in the fall, the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, which oversees the local Head Start program, will be able to re-establish an 18-slot classroom with four staff members. Instead of the current 257 students, CAPC will be able to accommodate 275 students next school year, according to CAPC Executive Director Melinda M. Gault.
Not only will the agency receive the $115,186 it lost during sequestration, but Head Start staff members will receive a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment, to which CAPC itself will make a small contribution, for a total 1.5 percent adjustment.
The funding restoration, which was announced to the agency last month by the national Head Start office in Washington, D.C., comes at a time when CAPC is heavily recruiting for the 2014-15 school year.
Our main selection for fall this year is May 6, so were collecting and processing (applications) now, said Cindy L. Dumas, CAPC family service specialist. We continue to fill (slots) all year long.
Head Start promotes school readiness of children from birth to age 5, and CAPC offers home visits and classroom settings for 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children of low-income families. CAPC operates Head Start centers in Watertown, Carthage, Dexter, Adams Center and Antwerp.
Children who are selected for a spot in the 3-year-old program will automatically be enrolled in the 4-year-old program the following school year.
While the agency is recruiting for new students for next school year, Mrs. Dumas said, there still is an active waiting list for this year. If any slots open between today and April 23, Mrs. Dumas said, children may have two months worth of school readiness, versus none.
The benefit is its ensuring they get their physical and health and developmental screenings, she said. Its also socialization.
Experiencing some separation from parents before full-day kindergarten also is good practice, she said. Head Start is a half-day program.
If you ask 4-year-old Camden Hoover what he does all afternoon in his Head Start classroom, hell tell you he just plays.
We build stuff, he said.
Shayla R. Mount, master teacher in Camdens classroom, said children dont realize that through play they develop skills theyll need in kindergarten and beyond, such as fine motor and literacy skills.
We also teach basic socialization skills, and then we work on proper manners and how to get along with each other, she said.
Ms. Gault said she would love for CAPC to offer those priceless skills to more children, but the agency is allotted only 275 Head Start slots throughout all five sites. More funding to increase that amount which has remained steady the past several years would take an act of Congress, literally, she said.
Its slim to none, I think, the chances for more money, she said.
The agency, however, remains thankful for the recent funding restoration, Ms. Gault said.