UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Prince George's County Public Schools announced Friday a new program which will continue all Head Start services following the termination of a federal grant. Early Start will provide the same services without interruption to all students who were enrolled in Head Start, and it will be funded by the school system.
Early Start will serve 855 students with certified instructors and high-quality curriculum at 35 sites, the school system said. There will be new mental health, nutrition and wellness resources for parents, and increased monitoring and enhanced staff screening in response to safety and disciplinary concerns.
In August, the federal government pulled the $6.5 million grant to fund Head Start for the 2016-2017 school year following reports of misconduct and abuse that were apparently never addressed by the school system.
"No services will be cut, no Head Start sites will be closed and all students will continue to be served. That was our goal from the beginning," said Prince George's County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell in a statement announcing the program. "We are pleased to provide continuity and stability for students and families, and enhance student safety at all sites."
The county said stricter oversight will be established through a 10-member monitoring board, and all instructors and classroom aides will be screened.
The continuation of the programs will come at a cost, however. A total of $5.5 million in local funds will be needed to fund the new Early Start program. Those funds will be generated through a combination of hiring freezes and the elimination of 19 positions.
Prince George’s County Public Schools says they will remain eligible for future Head Start funding as early as fall 2017.