YMCA of Frederick County approved to run Head Start -- Gazette.Net


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After more than a year of transition and uncertainty, the Head Start program in Frederick County is now on track to get permanent home.

Officials at the YMCA of Frederick County announced on Monday that the federal government has approved their bid to run the program.

The YMCA has received $2.2 million from the federal government to run the Head Start program until April 30, 2013. Once the grant expires, YMCA officials will apply for a new grant, allowing them to run Head Start for another five years, said Jan Hall director of grants for the YMCA of Frederick County.

“All in all it was a good fit,” Hall said. “We hope that the parents are excited that the YMCA is taking over.”

Head Start is a federal program that serves children ages 3 and 4 in families that fall below the federal poverty line, or $22,350 in salary for a family of four.

The Head Start program in Frederick County has been in transition since March 2011, when Board of County Commissioners pulled $2.3 million from its budget and relinquished the program to the federal government.

The federal government, which provides a $2.1 million grant to operate Head Start, hired Community Development Institute of Denver, Colo. — a federal contractor — to manage the program until it finds a local agency or a nonprofit to take it over.

Concerned about the fate of the program, YMCA officials submitted their application to the federal government in the beginning of October and were awarded the grant money May 1.

Now they have until June 30 to assume the full responsibility for Head Start from CDI.

Once the YMCA takes over, the Head Start program will be required to continue to serve 282 Frederick County children. But the program may change slightly to reflect the YMCA’s specific standards and practices, said Chris Colville, the agency’s chief operating officer.

“We want to incorporate what we consider to be best practices,” Colville said. “The Head Start program will be able to take advantage of our training, of our enrichment programs.”

As they enter the first phase of the transition, YMCA officials are still working out the details of the transition, Hall said.

“Our goal will be to minimize the amount of change to the families,” Hall said.

According to Hall, employees who have been working for the Head Start program over the past year will be given a chance to reapply for employment through the YMCA.

Finding the right locations for the program will be another challenge.

Before the changes to the program last year, Head Start was spread out at 16 schools and community centers countywide — some of which were provided at no cost.

At this stage, it is still unclear if the YMCA will be able to find centers for the program at the same locations. However, the agency is committed to serving children in the same areas even if that means providing additional transportation.

Head Start parents who have questions about the transition can email Jan Hall at jhall@frederickymca.org.

mraycheva@gazette.net