CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – The agency running Caroline County’s Head Start program voted to relinquish its grant money days before students were scheduled to show up Monday, a move expected to put the program on pause for weeks.
Rural Family Development (RFD), an agency of the Virginia Council of Churches (VCC), informed the school district on Aug. 13 that it was giving up its Head Start grant. According to its website, 95 children three to five years old are receiving Head Start services in the county.
VCC and Caroline County schools Superintendent Dr. Sarah Calveric assured families last week that the county’s Head Start program would continue but would not start on schedule, according to emails shared with 8News.
In the meantime, the Federal Office of Head Start has assigned Community Development Institute (CDI) to serve as the program’s interim operator until a new grantee is found.
“We remain committed to working with the transitional company, CDI, to support their efforts in rendering services as soon as possible to Caroline County’s youngest learners,” Dr. Calveric wrote. “We are saddened that the Head Start students are unable to begin Head Start programming on Monday, August 16, 2021 and look forward to learning of a program start date from CDI in the near future.”
Rev. Mary Anne Glover, VCC’s general minister, shared that VCC’s Board of Directors “voted to relinquish their Head Start grant” but did not disclose the reason for the decision with parents and guardians.
“I’m sure you have lots of questions, and someone from CDI will be reaching out very shortly to share more details and information about who they are and the process and status for school this fall,” Rev. Glover wrote on Aug. 13. “Again, please do not show up at the school on Monday, August 16, 2021.”
Glover told 8News in a brief phone call Wednesday that the decision was made “freely” by VCC, but did not elaborate. Parents who received the email told 8News and wrote on social media that they were informed the start date would be in about two to three weeks.
Head Start, an early childhood education program established in 1965, provides services to prepare young children from low-income households for kindergarten. The majority of Head Start programs are operated by non-profits, schools, and community action agencies, not by state or local officials.
Superintendent Calveric noted this in her message to families, writing the school district provides the Head Start program with building space and other in-kind services but “has no management, fiscal, or academic involvement.”
The pause on Caroline County’s Head Start program was shared the day before Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a $151.6 million investment in the Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Preschool Grant Program. The governor’s office anticipates the funding will help serve more than 25,000 three and four-year-olds this fall.
In a release announcing the investment, Northam’s office also said the federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs are funded to serve 14,463 children during this school year.