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Head Start program in Jefferson County to lose 18 slots

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The Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County will reduce it’s Head Start staff by four positions and the number of Watertown Head Start slots by 18 in an effort to make up for a near $116,000 loss through federal sequestration.

Earlier this spring, the nonprofit learned it would have to reduce its program by that amount, or 5.27 percent of the total $2.2 million Head Start budget. All Head Starts throughout the nation face the same percentage cut.

“It’s not going to do us any favors,” said Marie E. Ambrose, CAPC’s Head Start/prekindergarten director.

Head Start is a federal program that promotes school readiness of children from birth to age 5 from low-income families.

Those 18 slots, which make up an entire classroom, will be taken from the Watertown Head Start’s 4-year-old program. That means the agency’s waiting list for parents who want their child to join the Head Start program will grow beyond the 156 eligible children already on it.

The Head Start program in Jefferson County was funded for 275 children, but that will now be reduced to 257 children.

Further reductions include the entire Head Start program in Jefferson County ending one week early, on May 23. The 2013-14 Head Start school year will also begin a week later than normal in September.

In a prepared news release, Mrs. Ambrose said the slot reduction comes at a time when CAPC needs Head Start slots added, yet the federal budget is being balanced “on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable children.”

A majority of the programming in the north country is for 3- and 4-year-old children. A 5.27 percent cut nationwide means 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start, according to the national program’s website.

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