Prince George’s County Schools announced Friday it will institute a program that resembles Head Start, which was stripped of more than $6 million of federal funding after allegations of abuse.
Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said in a statement that the new Early Start program will serve 855 students at 35 sites with more than 100 employees that include 51 teachers. The school system will institute increased monitoring and enhanced screening to address safety and disciplinary concerns.
“No services will be cut, no Head Start sites will be closed and all students will continue to be served,” he said. “That was our goal from the beginning. We are pleased to provide continuity and stability for students and families and enhance student safety at all sites.”
The Head Start program, which is open to children ages 3 to 5, began the school year on Aug. 29, weeks after the school system was informed it would lose federal funding for the program.
The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, investigated three allegations of abuse within the county Head Start program, including a December incident in which a child was forced to mop his own urine.
Officials have said negotiations with ACF began in August and concluded this week to continue a similar Head Start program.
After the losing the federal month, the system will pay for the Early Start by freezing vacant central-office positions at $2.9 million and cutting 19 Head Start central-office positions at $2.6 million. The school system received several thousand dollars in federal grants during negotiations.
Community Development Institute of Denver, which provides services nationwide for the federal Officer of Head Start, will act as the county’s temporary provider for the time being.
Meanwhile, the school system will have a 10-member monitoring board that includes parents, early childhood experts and a school board member, which will meet every two weeks to oversee instructional practices, safety issues and review parent concerns.
In addition, Maxwell requested the Maryland State Department of Education to audit the Head Start program and provide recommendations for Early Start and overall improvement of the county schools.
Early Start students will be offered slots for full-day pre-K and kindergarten programs in the 2017-18 school year.
“This outcome ensures that students and families will experience no disruption or reduction in services,” said school board Chairman Segun Eubanks. “We will continue to examine the circumstances that led to the grant termination, but this path forward expands early education services in our schools and throughout our communities.”