Head Start to bring in more staff and children - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Head Start to bring in more staff and children

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What a difference a year makes.  This time last summer, the Head Start program in northeast Missouri was cutting staff and turning away dozens of children, but as it gears up for a new school year, the money is back and so are the kids. 

The program was caught in sequestration cuts last year.  Head Start was forced to cut 18 staff members and reduce enrollment by 77 kids.  This year, Head Start got more than $4 million to help bring back both kids and staff in several northeast Missouri counties.

As Hannibal Head Start central manager Lisa Thomas organizes a classroom for the start of the school year, she's a lot more excited about what's to come.  Last year, she was in the Bowling Green facility, which had to cut two classrooms and turn away 28 children.
   
"We were there on the line for awhile wondering if our center was going to close completely or will we have jobs tomorrow, so it was very stressful there for a couple of months," Thomas said. 

This year, it's addition instead of subtraction.  Thomas is anxious to see more children in the classroom.
   
"We're very excited because there are very limited options in that area," Thomas said. "So to have this reinstated and be able to serve those families again is a joyous occasion to celebrate for sure." 

Head Start director Linda Bleything says despite the program being able to add 77 kids, she isn't sure how willing parents will be to come back to Head Start because of last year's cuts.

"When we cut the head start, which was the three to five year olds, I don't know if we're going to get all of those back," Bleything said.  

But the important thing for Thomas is that people now have the option.  It's something she knows for a fact that people rely on this program in portions of northeast Missouri, such as Pike County. 

"We receive calls all the time, down there especially, for the infants because they require such one on one care compared to the older children," Thomas said.  "There is a great need for that."

Bleything said the Head Start Program will still be around for at least another five years, but she said there's no guarantee on how much funding they'll get from year to year.
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