Federal funding for the $4.158 million expansion of Culpeper County Early Head Start was officially earmarked at the local level during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
The elected body unanimously allocated the money awarded last month through the Dept. of Health & Human Services to Culpeper County Human Services, which runs the early childhood education program for babies up to age 3.
The Galbreath-Marshall Building on Old Fredericksburg Road houses Early Head Start as well as Head Start for up to age 5—serving a total of 250 children and their families.
With the grant award and building expansion, another 80 young children will be able to attend the preschool program.
In addition, 25 new full-time and 10 part-time staff will be hired. Currently, the program employs 60 full-time and 20 part-time—teaching staff, food service, social workers, health workers, office staff and supervisors.
The 10,500 square foot Early Head Start addition with 10 classrooms will be built behind the existing school and is slated to open in August of 2022, according to HeadStart Director Dorenda Pullen. She attended Tuesday’s board meeting with Human Services Director Lisa Peacock and Board Chairman Peter Mocarski.
“We are very happy to come before you today,” Peacock said, noting the need to expand to infant and toddler care in Culpeper. “We are really excited about what we are going to be able to do.”
She asked the supervisors to appropriate the federal dollars so construction can begin. The agency’s partner at KidCentral is also providing financial support.
“There is no request for local dollars,” Peacock said.
Cedar Mountain Supervisor Jack Frazier, as he did when the agency received federal funds to launch Early HeadStart five years ago, asked if the expansion would impact the county’s budget next year.
Peacock said they would not be requesting county funds for the program.
“I remember when I came before you all with the last grant we got and you said don’t come and ask for any local county money,” she said.
The grant will cover ongoing operations along with support from Kid Central and in-kind contributions.
“We do not anticipate any local money request coming for the expansion of the program,” Peacock said. “Hopefully you will take my word for it this time.”
Frazier asked if the program would be open to all families in Culpeper. HeadStart typically serves low-income families at no charge to them. Pullen said, per the grant, the new spots in Early HeadStart would be open to the entire community, including families making more that would pay a fee for the program.
She added the limited slots would be awarded based on a priority ranking system serving the neediest children, including those with disabilities.
Frazier responded, “There are so many families here that don’t necessarily meet that financial threshold, but they are hurting as much as those on the lower end of the threshold. If we are going to have this, it should be available to everyone.”
Pullen agreed saying with the earlier expansion, “We were able to open it to those who generally fall through the cracks.”
Frazier wanted to know if parents of Head Start children have to be employed or looking for a job.
Pullen responded that parents having a job is not a requirement of the program but they are required to participate in an engagement program that encourages goal setting and working toward self-sufficiency.