Three months after its usual start date, the Head Start program at Congress Park School in Brookfield is finally up and running this year. The program began the week of Dec. 8, providing early childhood education to 3 to 5 year olds from low-income families.

The late start this year was caused when the CEDA, the Cook County non-profit that managed the grant for the federally funded program, lost the grant because of its lax management and shaky financial condition.

The federal government awarded the grant on a temporary basis to a Denver-based agency, Community Development Institute. Under CEDA, Brookfield-LaGrange School District 102 had run the Head Start program at Congress Park, but District 102 and CDI could not reach agreement on a contract to run the program. 

As negotiations dragged on this fall, District 102 agreed to simply rent the classroom space to CDI and the agency run the program.

CDI will pay the district $4,916 per month for classroom and administrative space at Congress Park School through June 30. The agency has hired two teachers, two assistant teachers, two family service workers and a program aide. The center supervisor position, who oversees both locations, is currently vacant. Interviews for that position are being conducted.

District 102 Superintendent Warren Shillingburg said that he’s glad that the Head Start program is finally up and running.

“I’m overjoyed,” Shillingburg said. “I didn’t feel we could get the agreement between the lawyers with the contract language so we both felt the fastest way to move this forward was to go ahead with the leasing agreement.”

The Head Start staff will no longer be paid by District 102, nor will they be District 102 employees.

CDI is also renting a classroom at Ideal Elementary School in Countryside from LaGrange District 105 for $2,782 a month. According to Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director in the Office of Public Affairs of the Administration for Children and Families for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 25 children enrolled at Congress Park School and 27 children enrolled at Ideal School.

“Our Office of Head Start is currently recruiting children for both locations,” said Wolfe.

Interested parents or guardians of eligible children can contact Congress Park Head Start staff by calling 708-215-6047 and Ideal Head Start staff by calling 708-482-2760.