Local News

Hydaburg Head Start program ends, others shorten year

Hydaburg is losing its Head Start program.

It’s one response to sequestration, which cut the federal preschool education and screening program.

Hydaburg is on Prince of Wales Island, about 45 air miles from Ketchikan.

It’s been one of about 30 Alaska communities with Head Start programs run by the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, known as Rural Cap.

Child Development Director Debbie Baldwin says Hydaburg did not have a full classroom operation.

“We had a program there for three- to five-year-olds. It was a home-based program, a home visitor who would come provide activities and information and support for parents in their home environment to encourage their work with children,” she says.

Baldwin says another Rural Cap program, called Parents as Teachers, will expand to cover some of the 12 Hydaburg families. But it’s not a full replacement.

Rural Cap runs Head Start classrooms in three other Southeast cities. Ketchikan has about 60 students, Haines has 17 and Kake has 15.

Baldwin says budget cuts mean those programs will operate seven fewer days this school year. Staffers will also lose seven to 10 days of work, including a week-long training program.

She says the cuts come on top of earlier budget shortfalls.

“When I started here at Rural Cap, we were serving over 900 children in our Head Start program. We are now down to 756 children and families. This is a result of this instability in federal and state funding,” Baldwin says.

The Tlingit-Haida Central Council operates Southeast’s largest Head Start program, serving about 260 students in nine cities: Angoon, Craig, Klawock, Saxman, Hoonah, Petersburg, Wrangell, Juneau and Sitka.

The council is beginning classes 12 days late this fall to make ends meet. (Read about the THCC Head Start cuts.)

The Metlakatla Indian Community, 15 miles south of Ketchikan, operates its own Head Start program.

Director Jamie Chinuhuk says it’s reduced capacity from 40 to 37 preschoolers to balance its budget.

He says the program will also end a month early next spring.

Overall, Head Start budgets were reduced about 5.3 percent.

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