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Loan from private group keeps Head Start doors open
39IA Dawson County Fire Safety
Head Start

Dawson Countys Head Start program was closed Monday due to the partial shutdown of the federal government, leaving 74 children without access to education and parents scrambling for childcare.

That same day, a $10 million temporary, private loan provided money to reopen doors in six states,including Georgia. Head Start centers in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi and Connecticut were the first to be closed, affecting 7,195 children.

Dawson County children were back in school yesterday after word spread quickly through online channels.

Philanthropists Laura and John Arnold of Houston, Tex., extended up to $10 million in emergency funding to support the National Head Start Association, according to a press release issued on Monday by the association.

The Arnolds most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nations fiscal house in order, the release said.

The Dawson County Ninth District Opportunity Inc. (NDO) administers the program in Dawson County.

NDO Head Start Director Kay Laws said she is elated.

This is such a tremendous gift, said Laws. This agreement will keep our centers open for a few more weeks. Hopefully, a budget will be approved by that time.

When the government reopens, if Head Start programs are sufficiently funded for a 52-week period, the loan will be repaid with no interest, according to the press release.

Prior to the $10 million loan, NDO had posted a statement on its website that across Georgia 113 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms serving 2,805 children would close their doors.

Laws said the closings were out of their control.

We (NDO) were supposed to get our funding Oct. 1, she said.

Our funding coincides with the federal fiscal year. We havent received our grant award. And, the way we get our funding is through our grant.

Laws said the funds remaining from the 2013 fiscal budget were stretched to the very end.

I was able to talk to our regional office and extend it for four days (after the shutdown), she said. But thats all the money we had.

When Dawson County parent David McCord was asked what arrangements he had made for his sons education and care, his reply was like that of many other working parents.

Thats a real good question, he said. I might have to take a couple of days off work until we can figure it out.

The teachers and staff helped children remain calm and tension free on Friday, Oct. 4., by telling them their time away from school would be a fall break.

Most children seem to accept the change, but not 4-year-old Rileigh Grogan.

She gets it.

The government is closing it down, the precocious student said. Theyre being mean and bad.

Rileigh said she is sad because she isnt able to go to school.

Im going to miss going outside and having work time, she said.

But her biggest concern is for her classs pet goldfish.

Theyre gonna die, she said. No one is going to be here to feed them.

For now, Rileigh and her pet fish are going to be fine.

Editor/Publisher Kimberly Boim contributed to thisreport.