Despite a national funding shortage, Head Start will receive a $12,000 grant to keep the educational program for 3- to 5-year-olds of low-income families at Clover's growing Kinard Elementary this fall.
Head Start is federally-funded and works on a national budget, which is down $10.3 million from last year, according to federal figures.
With gas, food and transportation costs soaring, National Head Start Association executive director Michael McGrady said they've had to cut back staff, contact hours and transportation services, McGrady said. Many times, Head Start programs "hurt themselves by trying to help themselves," he said.
It's common for Head Start programs to share buildings with school systems, McGrady said, and also common for school systems to stop offering space for the programs.
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"If you don't have the money to purchase a building of your own, you have to do with what you can," McGrady said. "School systems have the same problems with space as we do."
Head Start was bunked from Kinard earlier this summer when the school sought space for a new integrated arts and education program for second, third and fourth graders.
Amid the shuffle, Kinard officials moved storage supplies such as floor buffing machines and physical therapy equipment in the building Clover Head Start used for class time. A previous storage building has been gutted and is being renovated for the arts electives.
The grant gave the program new hope.
Superintendent Marc Sosne said the Clover school district will pay any excess costs for moving the new mobile unit, setting up plumbing and making other preparations. The district expects to invest $1,000 to $2,000 extra on the unit, which Sosne says will be in working condition next month.
"Our space problems are what caused the problem," Sosne said, "so we're happy to do that for Head Start."
School officials anticipate freeing up space with the new elementary school on U.S. 321, to open in 2009.
The program is an asset to the Clover community, said Clover parent Melissa Carrillo, who spent years advocating more space for Clover Head Start, which has a waiting list every year. All three of her children have finished the program, but she said it's worth the battle to keep the benefits open to other families.
"My oldest one was writing her name at 3 years old. She was reading at 3 years old. She was writing her ABCs and numbers, one through 20, at 3 years old," Carrillo said.
Clover Head Start employs four teachers throughout the year for its 17 students. One teacher doubles as the bus driver.
"Our kids need an education like any other older kid," Carrillo said. "That's their right. It's everybody's right."