Students dancing with teacher

Head Start efforts to prepare Butler County students just got a budget boost

The Butler County Educational Services Center (BCESC) received $817,401 in new funding that officials said will help Head Start learning in both Butler and Preble counties.

“This money is literally a lifesaver,” said Suzanne Prescott, BCESC early childhood program director.

Nationally, $750 million has been designated for Head Start programs to support preventative, preparedness and response activities related to the coronavirus through the CARES Act to support low-income children who have experienced a disruption of services.

“We do not typically serve children in the summer, but this year we were able to provide services to 125 children going to kindergarten. Our children have some high risk factors such as foster care, homeless, low income, and being raised by grandparents,” Prescott said.

“For many of them being out of school since March is another risk factor. When children enter kindergarten behind, it is very hard to catch them up. We are able to continue their learning and make sure they are ready.”

The funds, which came through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provided $697,883 in Butler County and $119,518 in Preble County.

“To safely resume Head Start services, we are hiring more staff, leasing additional space to resume visits with families, and purchasing items required to provide a healthy and safe environment. We are also looking at adding some technology for families that we will serve remotely,” said Prescott. “The health and safety of each child in our care is our highest priority.”

The money is part of a $6 billion crisis assistance program approved by President Donald Trump, said federal officials.

“President Trump has secured more than $6 billion in funding to help supplement human services during this crisis,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “This $750 million for Head Start will help ensure that children and families who rely on the program continue receiving services like meals, health screenings, and pre-K education where possible.”

There are 153 children in Butler County and 43 children in Preble County are currently attending locations in Fairfield, Hamilton, Middletown, West Chester, Camden, Eaton and Lewisburg.