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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

New Sikeston Head Start center not ready

Sunday, August 18, 2002

SIKESTON -- Students attending the Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation Sikeston Head Start center will have to wait a little longer before taking advantage of a renovated facility. The reason? It's not ready yet.

"The building is undeveloped right now," said Tasha Treece, DAEOC housing director. "We're still in the process of renovating."

Having the facility finished for the start of the fall school season was originally DAEOC's goal, Treece said. Treece added that there's no one reason why the building isn't finished.

The current Sikeston Head Start center is located on 103. E. Kathleen, while the new center will be at 115 S. West St. The property was purchased around Feb. 1 from Harry and Mark Pratt of Pratt Development Inc. in Sikeston.

Although renovating the building has been a bit off-schedule, funding for the project hasn't. The Sikeston Head Start was recently awarded a federal home loan from USDA Rural Development. The loan will be used to renovate the vacant building. The project will be supplemented with Community Development Block Grant funds of $300,000; a private contribution of $9,000; and in-kind labor worth $40,000.

DAEOC will receive the low-interest loan of $329,000 at 4.75 percent over 25 years. The purpose of USDA is to provide grants and loans to assist in the development of essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population.

Overall, Head Start is an early childhood development program for children ages 3 to 5. It aids in developing children's mental, physical and emotional skills, Henry T. Newman, Head Start director, said.

"If you walk in, it may look like all the children are doing is playing," Newman said. "But what we've found is that children learn the best through playing."

Head Start uses what Newman called a creative curriculum. They have learning areas like housekeeping, reading and using blocks and trucks, he said.

The current Sikeston Head Start is located in a two-story building so safety was a concern throughout the project, Treece informed. "We're going to put all of our students on one floor," she said. "We'll also have more room for expansion in the future."

Other benefits of the new facility include a bigger and safer playground, community rooms, larger classrooms that exceed the state's minimum amount of space and a bathroom and drinking fountain in each classroom.

The Sikeston Head Start is the largest of the 17 Head Start centers in DAEOC's six-county service area of Scott, Pemiscot, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid and Stoddard counties. Approximately 200 students, 38 staff members and 10 foster grandparents and Green Thumb workers make up Sikeston's program, Newman said. There is a standard of 20 students and two teachers in each classroom.

The majority of Head Start centers open for the 2002-2003 school year Aug. 22 and are part-day programs consisting of four hours a day, Newman said. Since December Sikeston Head Start has offered full-day classes, which are six hours or more each day. When summer came, he said the center extended their hours so they are open year-round.

Since the goal of moving in at the beginning of this year has been postponed, Treece thinks next fall is a more reasonable goal; however it could happen sooner, she said.

Finished or not, DAEOC is still excited about the upcoming renovation. "It's a state-of-the-art facility," she exclaimed. "It's very modern. It's going to be wonderful."