Venango nonprofit gets $40 million Erie Head Start contract

Erie Times-News |

A nonprofit in Venango County has won the five-year, $40 million grant to run the Head Start program for the city of Erie, a program that the Greater Erie Community Action Committee had run for decades.

Child Development Centers Inc., of Franklin, on Monday announced that it had received the federal contract, which will amount to $7.9 million a year, and that it will be hiring around 170 people to operate the program. Starting , when the grant goes into effect, the CDC will be the lone provider of Head Start services in Erie, for 680 children. The program will launch .

Head Start is a federal preschool program for children from economically disadvantaged households. To qualify, a family's income must be at or below the federal poverty level, which is presently $25,750 for a family of four. Head Start is intended to prepare children for a successful transition to kindergarten and elementary school.

"We are extremely excited to be able to expand our services to the city of Erie and provide high-quality early childhood education to an area in great need," CDC Executive Director Rina Irwin said in a statement.

Irwin is a native of Erie and a Strong Vincent High School graduate.

The CDC said in a statement that "it anticipates opening five different sites for classrooms in Erie, including both the east and west sides of the city. The specific locations of those classrooms have yet to be determined."

CDC officials said the agency plans to have 36 total classrooms in the city with a capacity of 15 to 20 children per room.

The Erie Head Start grant is the largest in the history of the CDC, which already serves about 400 Head Start children in Venango and Crawford counties after getting a five-year, $19 million grant in the summer of 2016.

CDC officials said on their Facebook page that the organization was only awarded the Head Start grant. They did not know who received the grant for Pre-K Counts, also known as Early Head Start.

Head Start provides comprehensive early-childhood education, health, nutrition and parent-involvement services to low-income children and their families. The CDC won the grant through a competitive application process.

GECAC in late May said it did not receive a new grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"GECAC was not defunded nor did we relinquish our contract," GECAC said in a statement at the time. "We were placed in re-competition, which means we competed with other potential providers to receive the new five-year contract. Unfortunately, GECAC will not be receiving the grant to operate the Head Start program in Erie County."

GECAC employed 150 people in the Head Start program. CDC officials said that the agency plans to hire about 170 new employees for its Head Start program, and former GECAC employees are invited to apply for open positions at www.cdcenters.org/employment.

The job opportunities include teaching staff, food service workers, administrative/support staff, bus drivers and other positions.

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