Arkville Head Start cuts back but opens doors

By Joe Moskowitz
The 2013 school year didn’t start until September 11 for some young students.
Wednesdy was the beginning of life in a classroom for three-year-olds who are too young for the big school, and four-year-olds whose parents like the idea of giving them a ”Head Start.”
Head Start got a late start this year. Because of federal budget issues known widely as “Sequester,” which reduces many federal agencies’ funding by five percent, Delaware Opportunities, the agency that operates the Head Start program in Delaware County had to make some tough choices. The Franklin Head Start program had to shut its doors. The facility in Arkville, however, is still very much alive with just a few cutbacks.

Late start, early finish
The school year started three days late and will end three days earlier than usual, and the kitchen will be manned by just one person, a part-time assistant position was eliminated, but other than that it will be business as usual. But the business itself has changed.

Head Start began as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” in the mid 1960s as a mostly urban summer school program. The television show “Sesame Street” was an early outgrowth of Head Start.

In the early 1980s Head Start expanded to become a pre-school program for economically disadvantaged kids so they could learn about health and nutrition. They could also learn how to interact with other kids and it encouraged family involvement.

Competition from schools
But now, Head Start is facing competition. Public schools are actively recruiting parents to enroll their kids in universal Pre-Kindergarten programs. They are called universal because they are open to everyone, regardless of income.

Margaretville Central School had 13 kids registered in universal Pre-K at the start of the year. Roxbury Central had 19. Public schools and Head Start are now both trying to enroll the same kids.
During the peak “Baby Boom” years of the 1970s, MCS had an enrollment approaching 900. Today it is below 400. The Arkville Head Start has two classrooms and at its peak there were 17 kids in each classroom. Today there are 11 in each.

That is much better than the staff had expected. At the beginning of the summer there were a total of 11 kids registered . The numbers in both Head Start and at MCS are subject to change.