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March 22, 2011 7:15 am

EDITORIAL: Making sense at last

Written by Ilene Olson

In recent years, Powell’s Head Start and Migrant Head Start programs have been vivid examples of the bureaucracy, wastefulness and red tape of many government programs and agencies.

On the one hand was the Head Start program. During the school year, that program provided needed preschool services to children, operating in the basement of a local church under cramped circumstances.

On the other hand was the Migrant Head Start program, which operated in a beautiful building with four classrooms and a large playground — but only during summer months in recent years. During the school year, the building stood nearly empty, its classrooms dark and its playground quiet.

When the program operators left the building after the summer program ended in 2007, they turned the heat completely down, resulting in frozen water pipes and extensive damage to the vacant building the following winter.

That costly incident prompted officials to have someone work out of the facility during school years after that to assure the building was cared for while Migrant Head Start wasn’t operating.

But that did nothing to solve the glaring need for better facilities for the regular Head Start program, and the wastefulness of letting a needed building sit vacant was galling. But the Head Start and the Migrant Head Start programs operate under two separate federal agencies, and representatives of both said they could do nothing to change things.

To complicate matters further, the Early Head Start program, which offers home-based services in Powell to very young children, operates separately through still another grant.

Then Absaroka Inc., the Worland-based company that contracts with the government to run the regular Head Start program, did the seemingly impossible: After previous attempts failed, the organization applied for, and received, grants to operate the other two Head Start programs as well, thereby bringing all three programs together.

While each program requires separate funding and accounting, the three programs can share the building and non-consumable items such as classroom furniture, education supplies and playground equipment, thereby reducing duplication and waste.

Now, as of January, children in the regular Head Start program are taught in the Migrant Head Start facility on East Seventh Street. They have bright, spacious classrooms to learn in and a large playground to play in, and the formerly empty building and its playground are alive with the sounds of children learning, laughing and playing.

Shortly after the school year program ends, the Migrant Head Start will start up again, with more children benefiting from the facility.

It’s a shame it took so long, but we’re pleased to see the government-sponsored programs finally making sense — locally, at least — and making better use of taxpayers’ money.

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