For the first time in decades there is no Head Start program at Congress Park School in Brookfield.
The federally funded Head Start program for 3 and 4 year olds had been jointly supported by Brookfield-LaGrange Elementary School District 102 and LaGrange Elementary School District 105.
But, in June 2014 the agency that was overseeing the Head Start program, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, (CEDA) lost its grantee status over concerns of lax management and financial irregularities.
Last year, a Colorado-based company, CDI, stepped in and ran the Head Start program at Congress Park on a temporary basis.
This year the social services agency Pillars was awarded a federal grant of about $25 million over five years to run Head Start programs in 18 ZIP codes in the west and southwest suburbs, but Brookfield was not included.
However, children who were enrolled at Head Start at Congress Park last year have the right to attend a Pillars program in Hickory Hills.
“Any of the children who were enrolled in Head Start programs in the previous year were eligible for re-enrollment in the programs that we became the grantee for,” said Ann Schreiner, the president and CEO of Pillars. “All those who wished to re-enroll were eligible to do so.”
Schreiner said that she didn’t know how many children who went to Head Start at Congress Park are enrolled at the Hickory Hills location.
“I know we have some, I don’t have the exact number and enrollments change,” Schreiner said.
Two children who went to Head Start at Congress Park last year are now enrolled in the Preschool for All program run by District 102 at its Early Childhood Education Center at Barnsdale School in LaGrange Park.
Like Head Start, the Preschool for All program has income restrictions, but eligibility standards are different than the ones Head Start uses.
“The qualifiers are a little bit different,” Powell said.
Preschool for All is a half-day program, while Head Start is a full-day program that also provides meals to students.
While District 102 officials had been hoping to move the Head Start program out of Congress Park School for a couple of years because they needed the classroom space, they are disappointed that a more local spot could not be found for a Head Start program in the district.
“It’s not that far away, but it wasn’t as close as it was before,” said Joyce Powell, the assistant superintendent for special education at District 102.
At Congress Park School, the former Head Start classroom has been turned into a kindergarten classroom and the former Head Start offices are now being used to provide special education services.
This year, Congress Park School added another section of fourth grade, so it needed the classroom that Head Start vacated.
“It was unfortunate that we didn’t have the space, but we just didn’t have the space,” Powell said. “We were adding on to Barnsdale just to accommodate the district program.”
Powell said that the instability among the groups running the Head Start program was disappointing.
“It is disappointing that it couldn’t have been relocated somewhere closer,” Powell said. “I think what’s really disheartening is that the people who are in charge, the people who get the grant and run the grant, that that can’t stay consistent. It switched over to CDI from CEDA and now it’s with Pillars.”