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Head Start classrooms cut in 3 counties

PIQUA — The Council on Rural Services announced this week a realignment plan for its Head Start and Early Head Start program that will reduce services for three of its nine counties in the wake of the federal sequester and the ongoing need for the enhancement of early childhood education programs.

The plan approved by the CORS Board of Trustees and the Policy Council is to close seven Head Start classrooms in Auglaize, Greene and Shelby counties, along with accepting 171 fewer children, and reducing the classroom and administration work force by 37 employees.

In addition, the part-day preschool classrooms in all counties also will open two weeks later this fall.

“CORS is an excellent agency that provides quality programming and services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers,” chairwoman Janet Julian said in a release.

“Unfortunately we can no longer provide services to as many children and families due to the reduction in funding. It is the board’s desire to work through these issues to provide strong programs well into the future.”

Although this realignment has come about as a result of the sweeping sequestration cuts in March, the CORS organization is also addressing many ongoing changes that will allow the agency to respond proactively to the future and economic conditions.  

“We have reduced expenses in the past few years — now we have no choice but to cut whole classrooms of children and staff to meet this new federal cut in funding,” said Shirley Hathaway, CORS executive director.

“But by doing these strategic changes now, we will be able to position the program to excel towards our mission of providing the finest high-quality early education and care services for children and families in our Kids Learning Place centers.”

Funding deficits are not new to Head Start programs, officials said. For CORS, these deficits include more than 20 percent less funding where cost of living awards have not kept up with the actual consumer price index over the last 10 years.

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