There has been something different about the first month of school this year at Congress Park School in Brookfield.
For the first time in more than 40 years there have been no 3 to 5 year olds participating in the federally funded Head Start preschool program.
Head Start has been in limbo all year because the agency that manages the grant funding for the program, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County or CEDA, has had its Head Start grant taken away, reportedly because of financial and administrative problems at CEDA.
The federal government has given the Head Start grant to a Colorado nonprofit known as the Community Development Institute Head Start (CDI), which specializes in acting as an interim Head Start grant holder.
But Brookfield-LaGrange Elementary School District 102 and CDI have not yet been able to agree on a contract to run the program. District 102 wants CDI to address some liability concerns the district has.
Last week, District 102 Superintendent Warren Shillingburg told the school board that he hopes resolve those concerns and re-start the Head Start program at Congress Park on Oct. 14.
District 102 is proposing an addendum to its contract with CDI to address the liability issues.
“We’re hopeful,” Shillingburg told the school board last week. “CDI, in their conversations, say they want to work with us.”
District 102 provides classroom space for the Head Start program and acts as the administrative agent for the program. Technically, the Head Start teachers are District 102 employees although the federal government, through CDI, provides the funding for the program and the money to pay the teachers.
The addendum to the contract would allow District 102 to terminate the agreement if CDI reduces its funding for the program below $415,371 or if fewer than 68 students are enrolled 90 days after the agreement is signed.
“I think this is a good plan to make sure we have the program for this year,” said school board member Matthew Scotty.
At its Sept. 25 meeting the school board also approved an intergovernmental agreement with LaGrange Elementary School District 105 in order to provide enough students to run the program. Each district is supposed to supply 34 students to the Head Start program.
“Hopefully this will all come together and we can start by the second week of October,” said District 102 school board President Dave May.