Head Start eliminated

PARSONS – While the news of the loss of the Head Start program in Tucker County is just beginning to make headlines, the process necessitating its closure began back in the spring.

Ruth Ann Ponzurick, the Head Start director for North Central West Virginia Community Action Agency, said the decision to close that program was hard, and much research went into assuring the least amount of families felt the affects of the closure.

In West Virginia, the Head Start program is for children age 3 to 5. Its goal is to promote school readiness for children in low-income families. Head Start provides comprehensive educational, health, nutritional and social services. Parents in families enrolled in Head Start have a large role in the programs, serving as primary educators of their children and as participants in administering the programs locally.

“We were notified in spring to expect a 5 percent cut because of the sequester,” Ponzurick said. “When it was official July 1, we found out the cut in our budget would be 5.27 percent. While that may not seem like much, North Central West Virginia Community Action Agency Head Start serves nine counties. That 5.27 percent accounted for $300,000.”

Ponzurick said it is regretful to have to make decisions to cut programs, and the group looked for a way to have the least impact to children, families and its employees.

“The Head Start program in Tucker County was providing home visits to five families,” Ponzurick said. “The families would come into the office for socialization. It was a tough decision to close the program, but we looked into the availability of alternative programs available to those affected before making the decision to close.”

Another consideration with Tucker County Head Start was the difficulty they had finding a family educator in the county.

“Most of the staff used in Tucker County to provide services came from Elkins or other surrounding counties,” Ponzurick said.

Ponzurick said one resource in Tucker County included Tucker County Parents As Teachers. The Tucker County PAT program partners with families to offer support. Their offices are located in the Board of Education Annex building and offers services similar to Head Start for families prenatal through 5. For additional information, call Tucker County PAT at 304-478-3827.

Another program is through the Tucker County Board of Education Pre-K program. This program serves children age 4, and age 3 if they have an Individual Education Program. Additional information about this program is available by calling 304-478-2771.

The Tucker County Birth To Three program provides in-home services to families with children having special needs. Additional information about this program is available by calling 304-478-3212.

The Tucker County Family Resource Network offers additional information and referrals. They are located at 501 Chestnut St. in Parsons, and questions may be directed to 304-478-3827.

“We hated to have to make the decision to close the program in Tucker County,” Ponzurick said. “But the decision to cut the program came down from the Congressional level. The other available resources in the county helped make the difficult decision to close the program.”

The North Central West Virginia Community Action Agency Head Start Program serves families in Barbour, Marion, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Taylor, Preston, Monongalia and Greenbrier counties. Additional information about the programs is available on-line at www.ncwvcaa.org.

– Contact Beth Christian Broschart via e-mail at bbroschart@theintermountain.com. Follow her in Twitter at ITM_Broschart.