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Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Stonington, Maine.
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by Jessica Brophy
The last public education institute in Stonington will move to Deer Isle over the Thanksgiving break.
Island Early Care & Educational Center, commonly known as Head Start, will be moving into a space in the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School. The Head Start has been in its current location since 1990.
On Wednesday, November 7, the school board unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding—similar to a lease—to provide a classroom, bathroom and playground space for Head Start at a cost of $300 per month. The $300 figure is based on the school’s cost per square foot for heating and utilities, plus $25/month for incidentals. See complete CSD meeting story on page 3.
The memorandum has a five-year term, with an opt-out clause for both sides. The school board amended the agreement to allow for renegotiation of terms on an annual basis.
The Head Start classroom will be located in Room 105, the last room down the hall on the right across from the kitchen, DISES principal Mike Benjamin said at the school board meeting. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to Head Start students, reimbursable with federal dollars. Head Start would be responsible for staff and the program and any other costs.
Doug Orville, Executive Director of Child and Family Opportunities, the management organization of the Head Start, said the move is an attempt at cost-savings. Half of CFO’s 2010-11 $5.6 million budget was spent on Head Start. Other programs CFO manages are infant and toddler care in some locations, child food programs, Healthy Peninsula, coaching mentor programs and more. According to the CFO’s 2010-11 Annual Report, there are many requirements for centers to qualify for federal funds, such as specific space requirements and a 4-1 student-teacher ratio.
Head Start is funded by federal dollars, though CFO receives some state funding as well, which typically allows CFO to extend programming to more children. CFO operates 11 centers in Hancock and Washington counties. Seven of those are in public elementary schools and two in higher education institutions. Stonington and Harrington represent the two programs operated in a stand-alone building. In August, Brit Urh-Morse of CFO said the organization was pursuing a move in Harrington into the elementary school there.
In 2010-11, CFO served 282 students in Head Start. Of that 282, 58 or 20 percent of children’s slots were paid for without federal funds according to the annual report. Some of the non-federal funding is from the state, but other funding is received in the form of community contributions and other fundraising.
Last year, state funding was cut from $393,000 to $71,000. As a result, CFO closed two classrooms at centers in Bucksport and Ellsworth and sought to decrease other costs as much as possible.
From October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012, the expenses for the current building for utilities, maintenance and repair were $13,922 said Orville. This means each month cost more than $1100 to operate the center, and a move to the school represents an average of $800 each month in savings.
Orville said CFO would likely sell the Stonington property. Any funds raised from the purchase of the sale would return to the U.S. Treasury, since federal funds were used to purchase the property originally, said Orville.
According to the Town of Stonington, the land the Head Start property is on is assessed at $23,500 and the building is valued at $105,700 for a total tax-exempt assessed value of $129,200.
When asked if he thought the newly-elected Democratic state legislature would be likely to increase funding, Orville said he was “hopeful that would be the case. We think that investing in children early pays off.”
Orville also said there are other developmental benefits to being housed in the elementary school, such as providing continuity for children moving from Head Start to kindergarten.
In order to receive federal dollars, at least 90 percent of the students enrolled in a Head Start program must be from families living at or below the poverty line. The other 10 percent of slots can be filled by any student. For more information about CFO and Head Start, visit childandfamilyopp.org.