Amber Lock, Grant Manager for the Head Start grant at Cooper Early Education Center, had a nugget of good news for the school's policy council during an update on the grant writing and evaluation calendar Feb. 5.
She discussed the calendar for the grant, and that due to when board of education meetings fall on the calendar, writers are losing about a month to finish the application and have it approved by the board before sending it to Head Start for funding.
But she said during a meeting of the council that a requirement that Cooper provides all-day services to at least 50 percent of Head Start students by August of 2019 has been changed — the new number for required all day services is zero.
"Right now we don't have to worry about that," Lock said.
Staff at the school had been researching and working on a plan to make that transition — however that work has now been put on hold.
"This will stop our plan for visiting full-day programs and developing a planning committee at this point," wrote Sarah Livesay, principal at Cooper Early Education Center, in an email to Policy Council members.
According to an email to Livesay from a program director, the requirement has been adjusted because there is not additional funding available to programs trying to make the transition.
"The Secretary has determined the mandate was not coupled with sufficient funding to mitigate a substantial reduction in funded enrollment. Therefore, to avoid serving fewer children and families, this requirement will not go into effect," wrote Ann Linehan, Acting Director for the Office of Head Start.
There is no determination if a requirement that all Head Start students be served by an all-day program by 2021 will be adjusted in any way.
"They will evaluate if that will go at all," Lock said. "... They took away the 50 percent, I doubt that they would just jump us in and it be like, 'everybody all in the pool.' I think they will back it off to another 50 percent and ease it in. The money is just not there."
The all-day requirement is for 1,020 hours per year for Head Start center based programs. It would also change food service requirements — students would be fed twice a day rather than once.
The increase in hours would mean two other major changes for the program — one is in transportation and the other in classroom space.
Superintendent Deb Hamm told the Kansan in 2016 that four new classrooms would need to be found — taking the total to nine Head Start classrooms overall — to accommodate all-day programs. The building does not have those classrooms, unless an infant daycare in the building would move to a new location.
In the area of transportation, it is unclear what the change in costs would be. Only Head Start students can ride on Head Start busses. Currently, there are a mixture of busses and vans that take students to and from Cooper.
Head Start for Harvey County was started by Mid-Kansas Community Action Program, but was closed for reorganization in 2011. The Federal Region VII Head Start officials chose to change the provider of Head Start services, leading to the program closing to reorganize.
The school district took over the administration of Head Start in 2012. At that time the program was changed from a full day program to a half-day program to give access to more children.
The district folded Head Start students into existing programs — including special education pre-K and a state-funded pre-K program.
The program serves children between the ages of 3 and 4, teaching skills needed for kindergarten in the traditional school system.