For the Cumberland Times-News
OAKLAND — Garrett County Head Start and Early Head Start operations will close for one month in 2013 as the result of the federal government’s budget seque-stration.
Garrett County Community Action Committee an-nounced these actions to accommodate the federal government’s mid-year im-poundment of fiscal 2013 funds. More than 70 employees will experience layoffs or furloughs so that $300,000 can be eliminated. The nine-month Head Start program will close April 12. The 12-month Head Start option will conclude July 12.
Three hundred children and their families and 57 Community Action employees will be impacted by the Head Start action alone, Duane Yoder, president of Garrett County Community Action, said. Other cutbacks will affect the weatherization, senior citizen, housing and core organization activities, according to Yoder.
“The federal reductions occurred in the middle of the federal budget year so we have to absorb these reductions in a very compressed time frame,” Yoder said. “We have already reduced the days of operations for facilities such as the Flowery Vale Senior Wellness Center, eliminated most of our federally assisted energy conservation services and, starting in the fall, will need to reduce our emergency housing assistance to prevent homelessness.”
Patty Gallagher, chairwoman of the Head Start Parent Policy Council, said parents are scrambling to find quality child care they can afford as a result of this unexpected news. The council is working with parents to make the transition to the summer break as easy as possible. The Wrap Around Child Care Center in Oakland operates during the summer, and parents are being assisted in obtaining child care vouchers.
Lowell Bender, who chairs the Community Action Board of Directors, expressed concern the closings will seriously impact the school readiness of Head Start children entering kindergarten.
“We have invested energy and money in trying to make sure that every child is fully ready and the Garrett County scores are among the highest in the state,” he said. According to Mark Colaw, who directs Community Action’s Early Child Education Department, both Head Start programs will resume in September.