Absaroka Inc. has a new director, Jamie Stockwell, who took over the post in February.
The Powell program’s move comes as the result of Absaroka Inc.’s successful application for a grant to run the Migrant Head Start program in Powell, said Kelly Rae Tamblyn, the site teacher, or center manager, for the Powell Head Start program.
The Migrant Head Start program has operated under an interim company for nearly four years. Prior to that, the Migrant Head Start Program operated under Nowcap Inc., which relinquished its contract in 2007.
Since then, the migrant program has operated only during the summer, and the building has stood empty during each school year.
This wasn’t the first time Absaroka submitted a grant to run the Migrant Head Start program, but it was the first time it was chosen, Tamblyn said.
Absaroka also applied for, and received, a grant to run the Early Head Start program in Powell, bringing all three programs under one roof, Tamblyn said.
“In the past, Absaroka couldn’t afford the rent that it would have cost to be here,” Tamblyn said. “Now, under the same company, a collaboration has been reached.”
The regular Head Start program provides classroom and other services to 4-year-olds from income-qualifying families during the school year.
The Migrant Head Start Program provides services to children, from birth to age 6, of migrant farm workers during the summer.
Classes for the two programs will not overlap, though there will be some overlapping in the offices while teachers for the school-year program wrap up their operations and teachers for the migrant program begin setting up and training for their summer classes, Tamblyn said.
The building also provides office space for the Early Head Start program, which provides in-home services for children from birth through age 3 from income-qualifying families.
Bringing the three programs together was no small feat, Tamblyn said, since all three Head Start programs function separately under two different federal agencies, and in different regions within those agencies.
The Head Start and Early Head Start programs operate under Region 8 of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department; the Migrant Head Start program operates under Region 12 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We’re also working out a collaboration with that,” Tamblyn said. “We’re doing the best we can. We think it’s the best for all the children and families that we serve.”
Although the grant was finalized in the fall, it took until January to work out all the details of how the programs could work together. The move from the basement of the church began Jan. 17 and was completed in one week.
“We packed up in one day, rented a U-Haul and moved the day after that, set up on the third and fourth day, held parent orientation on the fifth day and opened up to children on Jan. 24,” Tamblyn said. “I don’t think there’s another group of people that could have done it in that time. I am so impressed with the women who work here.”
Each type of Head Start program — regular, early and migrant — is funded separately and must maintain its own records. Eighty percent of the funding for each program comes from the federal government; 20 percent comes from local matching funds and in-kind donations.
Money from one program cannot be transferred to another, but the programs can share non-consumable goods, such as furniture, education supplies and kitchen equipment.
“They (the migrant program) had stuff we don’t have, and we had stuff they don’t have,” Tamblyn said.
Sharing the building brings benefits besides bright, spacious classrooms and a big outdoor playground with ample equipment for children to play on.
This year, because only one classroom was available in their previous basement space, teachers will continue to hold one Head Start class in the morning, and another in the afternoon.
Now, more than one classroom is available, so both classes next year will be offered in the morning.
The Migrant Head Start Center has four classrooms — two for preschoolers and two for infants and toddlers in the migrant program — and a kitchen and office space.
“Having individual classrooms is great,” said Miranda Norman, a teacher’s aide.
The teachers aren’t the only ones who are happy about their new space.
“Our cook, Carol, is extremely happy in her huge kitchen,” Tamblyn said. “She prepares meals for 34 children and 10 adults every day.”
Other benefits come from the fact that the building is located near the high school, making it easy for high school students to help out and observe in Head Start classrooms for credit in their child development classes.
And, also being near Northwest College, “it’s much easier on a good portion of our parents, who are attending Northwest,” Tamblyn said. “They can jump over between classes. We encourage parent involvement as much as possible.”
Now that they’ve managed to get the three Head Start programs to work together, teachers and staff are looking to extend that collaboration to other agencies as well. Head Start is hosting an interagency meeting April 15, and organizers are working to get as many agencies as possible to participate.
Among them so far are, besides the three Head Start programs, are the Department of Family Services, Park County Public Health, some physicians and some optometrists.
While they’re grateful for their new facilities, Tamblyn said Head Start teachers and staff also appreciate the willingness of the United Methodist Church to house the program when it began in 1965.
“I was told that, at the time, they were the only church willing to take a chance on the Head Start program,” she said. “We’re eternally grateful for that.”