CLOVER -- A learning program for low-income students ages 3 to 5 was recently benched from its classroom at Clover's Kinard Elementary to make space for the arts, but a federal grant could allow the classes to continue at the school in the fall.
Head Start has been offered for seven years at Kinard, the school closest to many of Clover's low-income families. The program serves a four-county area and is free to children who need an extra boost before entering the school system, based on income and other special needs.
The problem, says executive director Walter Kellogg, is finding a classroom in schools that are constantly growing.
"That's a way of life for us," said Kellogg, who was recently notified that he'd need to make other arrangements for Clover Head Start.
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He said he's grateful to any school district that gives the program a classroom, but "if they don't have space to give, they don't have space to give."
Kellogg said losing a classroom isn't uncommon for Head Start, which operates independently of the schools and cannot afford to rent or lease rooms every school year.
Space at Kinard became tight when the school sought room for a new integrated arts and education program, with a full-time art coordinator and activities for second, third and fourth graders, offered separately from regular art classes, said Clover superintendent Marc Sosne.
To house the activities, school officials chose an old storage unit on campus used to stash floor buffing machines, physical therapy tools and more. They moved the equipment this summer to the mobile unit where Head Start classes were held in previous years, Sosne said, and the shed is being cleaned, painted and renovated for this fall's art program.
Electives will range from photography to karate to foreign languages, said Debbie Faulkner, full-time teacher and coordinator. She plans to collaborate with math, science, language arts and social studies teachers to find arts programs that will pair with their curriculum.
In addition to learning geometry in the classroom, for example, they can make a quilt, she said.
Kellogg and his community action group have applied for a federal grant to lease an additional mobile classroom for this fall's Head Start program. Head Start will need $12,000 to lease a new mobile unit.
The federally-funded program includes licensed teachers and teacher assistants, doctors, dentists and FDA-approved nutritional meals, Kellogg said. Parents are required to volunteer in some way, either by chaperoning a field trip, participating in the classroom or serving on a panel.
Sosne wrote a letter of support for the grant, pulled from special funds allotted by the Atlanta Head Start office. He said that aside from needing more space, a new mobile unit would be a nice replacement to the older trailer.
But Clover parent Katrina Dover said she isn't taking any chances.
When she heard the school district might be running out of options for Head Start, Dover registered her son Steven, who will be 4 in September, for the same program in York, she said.
Dover won't be able to take advantage of the Head Start bus, but she said she'd make the drive if she had to. She wants her son to learn early.
"I teach him stuff already, but people are just so busy nowadays," Dover said. "I have to work, and I want my son to be in something educational -- not just a daycare."
Sosne's letter of support for leasing the new mobile unit was for one year only. Once construction on the new elementary school on Highway 321 is complete, he said, space for the program will no longer be an issue.
If Head Start doesn't receive the grant, Sosne said the school plans to rent a storage building for the equipment and give the trailer back to the program for the 2008-2009 school year. The trailer is worn, but safe, he said.
Sosne said he hopes the issue will be resolved in the next few weeks.