Ashley Fowlkes, left, gives paperwork to Michelle Rodriguez as she registers her daughter for the Head Start program. Enrollment continued Tuesday at the J.B. Simmons Community Center.
The Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo won’t run Head Start in Lucas County next year, but that doesn’t mean the program will end.
Parents registered children Tuesday at the J.B. Simmons building, 1001 Indiana Ave., for the fall. There was only a light trickle of registrants during the morning, but program staff said they expect to enroll more than 2,000 for the early childhood education program.
On June 30, EOPA’s $13 million Head Start grant runs out, and an interim firm will take over the program. But staff members said they’ll keep working until then.
“Head Start is not going anywhere,” family service worker Dana Barfield-Duran said. "We’ve got to keep enrollment going.”
The local Head Start grant was one of dozens that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put up for competition for the first time, but the department announced last month that none of the local applicants, which included EOPA and Toledo Public Schools, had submitted bids that met its standards.
A new chance to bid will be announced later this spring. Officials at EOPA and TPS said they plan to reapply. Meanwhile, Community Development Institute, a Denver firm, will run the program in Lucas County while the U.S. department solicits applicants.
Robert Jordan, interim chief executive officer for the planning association, said that Head Start registration information will be given to the Community Development Institute when EOPA’s contract runs out.
What isn’t clear is where Head Start sites will be next year, and who will staff it. Federal Head Start officials said the Colorado institute will negotiate about possible use of EOPA sites and that the more than 300 local Head Start employees will have to compete for jobs.
Staff at Tuesday’s registration said they couldn’t comment about possible changes. But parent Ashley Fowlkes called the decision to end EOPA’s contract “devastating.” Ms. Fowlkes registered one daughter Tuesday, while another daughter is in the program. Both daughters are bright, and she enrolled them in Head Start to gain social skills. In some areas, however, the program fills an educational void, she said.
“They do a very good job,” she said about EOPA. “I don’t know why they aren’t letting them do [Head Start] this year.”
Registration will continue at several EOPA sites this spring.