Head Start Pre-Kindergarten Services Expanded By Jefferson-Clarion Head Start, Inc.

IMG_0742BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – The funding pipeline for Jefferson-Clarion County Head Start, Inc. (JCHS) is starting to thaw out after the lack of funding because Pennsylvania has not been able to pass a full budget and Federal cuts made in previous years due to sequestration.

“JCHS recently received notification from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning that we were awarded expansion funding to provide services to an additional 77 children and families.” said JCHS Executive Director Steve Berfield.

“Through Head Start supplemental and Pre-K-Counts programs, there will be two Head Start expansion centers in Punxsutawney and one in A-C Valley.  The Pre-K Counts expansion centers will be in Brockway and Brookville.  The expansion of our Pre-Kindergarten funding now brings our total number of children serviced to nearly 600 each year.”

JCHS receives close to $1.5 million annually in state funding and nearly $3 million from Federal grants.

Sequestration at the Federal level originally required the closing of three centers, and new expansion grants allows the new centers.

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“We got some expansion money, so we were able to reopen a couple of centers that we had closed down because of some structural things we did,” said Pam Johnson, Assistant Director/Business Manager.  “We had one center in Punxsutawney shut down a few years ago because of sequestration, and this year we closed another Punxsutawney center and one in A-C Valley.  We’ll be able to open all three of those, hopefully by March 14.”

The lack of a state budget has also challenged the JCHS programs.  Johnson said there were plans to temporarily close some state-funded programs in January, but they fortunately didn’t have to do that.

“The state budget has affected in that we had to draw a lot on the line of credit,” said Johnson. “The state budget has affected us in that we had to draw a lot on the line of credit,” said Johnson.  “Our Pre-K Counts program permits us to charge interest to the grant, but the other grants do not.  It kind of put us in a bind; we’re fortunate that the Eagles Club in Clarion gave us a donation of $500.00 to help.  We’ve racked up quite a bit in interest costs, and I know they have (legislators) tried to put together a bill to repay that schools and other agencies have paid, but I haven’t heard anything on its status.”

JCHS originally had a $500,000 line of credit from a local bank, but increased it to $750,000.00 because of the uncertainty with the passage of a state budget.

“Some funding is coming in from the state,” said Johnson. “We’re getting a payment this week for Pre-K on Thursday and Friday and then one on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week.”

Berfield said the funding faucet is starting to open after being frozen, but Pennsylvania still doesn’t have a full budget.

Head Start is a federally-funded, high quality child and family development program that promotes the school readiness of low-income children 3-5 years of age by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development in learning environments that support children’s growth in language, literacy, math, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills, and approaches to learning.

Head Start also provides children and their families with health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services that are determined based on family needs assessments.

Applications for the enrollment of children are being accepted immediately with a projected start time of mid-March. Additionally, 20 new staff positions are available to those interested and qualified. Please contact JCHS at 1-800-628-6150, or visit www.jcheadstart.com to download a child enrollment application or to learn more about employment opportunities.


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