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October 17, 2013

Head Start officials hopeful gov’t shutdown coming to an end

CULLMAN — The Cullman Head Start has enough donated cash on hand to stay open until at least the end of October — but the latest news out of Washington indicates they might not need it.

With the Senate agreed on a deal to end the federal shutdown and avoid a financial default, local education leaders say they are relieved to hear the government could come back online this week — bringing Head Start funding along with it.

The Cullman Head Start, which is hosted at Cullman Primary School and funded by a federal grant, was slated to close approximately two weeks ago once the shutdown went into effect. But, the school system pitched in $20,000 to keep it operational in the interim.

With no end in sight after a few days, officials were close to closing the program again — but community donations poured in to keep the doors open, with enough remaining in the coffers to survive until the end of the month. Donations came from private citizens, local businesses, the Cullman City Schools Foundation and several other sources.

Cullman City Schools Superintendent Dr. Doreen Griffeth said it’s a good thing the program has some extra funds available, because even if legislators do strike a deal, it could still be several days until funding is restored.

“We did know the funds wouldn’t be retroactive, and we still don’t know how quickly funds will be restored,” Griffeth said. “But, we are prepared to go through October with the funds that have been raised. We feel comfortable we have the funds to get through, and we’re thrilled that the government will hopefully be back on track.”

Cullman Primary School Principal Tricia Culpepper said she was elated to hear the shutdown might finally be over.

“This community really rallied around the Head Start and that was what kept the doors open through the month of October,” she said. “It’s so overwhelming when you speak to directors across the state, and nation, and realize we’re one of the few programs able to remain open. The students are happy and eager to come, while the teachers do a fantastic job in the classroom. We’re just ready to get back to the art of teaching our kids.”

‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

 

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