Head Start will need new home in Easthampton in near future

  • White Brook Middle School in Easthampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/14/2019 11:34:03 PM
Modified: 11/14/2019 11:33:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — When the city welcomes the opening of a new school in 2022, one thing missing will be Head Start — but both the city and Community Action Pioneer Valley, which runs Head Start in Franklin, Hampshire and parts of Hampden counties, are looking to keep the popular preschool program in Easthampton.

“We are committed to being in Easthampton,” said Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action. 

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said that the “goal is to keep the level of service” with Head Start and that she doesn’t want to lose an “iota” of service.

“My goal is to preserve those services for the residents of Easthampton and to expand them where needed,” she said.

A White Brook Middle School classroom now houses a Head Start half-day program during the school year. The school is set to be demolished and replaced with a new school for pre-K through eighth grade in the city.

The new school won’t accommodate the Head Start program, LaChapelle said, because it’s a federal program and the school is being constructed with the help of state funds. As such, making room for Head Start wouldn’t have been reimbursed.

“It really comes down to dollars and cents,” she said, noting the school plans precede her administration.

Head Start combines a preschool program with family engagement and a strong health and nutrition component. Some programs also include transportation.

“Its got decades of data behind it,” LaChapelle said.

LaChapelle expressed confidence that a new home will be found for Head Start in the city. As to where that location might be, however, “I candidly do not have an answer,” she said.

The mayor said that space could be available in the new school if there is less population growth than expected, but the chances of that happening are low.




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