December 20, 2014

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Oberlin Head Start to close

OBERLIN — The Oberlin Head Start facility will close in July, but services will continue in other Lorain County locations.

Parents were notified Friday that the Oberlin Head Start, 12078 Leavitt Road, will close, effective July 31. The center has assisted infants, toddlers and preschoolers for nearly 18 years.

However, according to a news release, the Lorain County Community Action Agency, which oversees the Oberlin center, cited declining enrollment as the reason for closing.

Jackie Boehnlein, president and CEO of LCCAA, said the policy council, which is represented by parents of Oberlin Head Start, agreed to the closure.

“We discussed this through policy council, and it was approved by the policy council,” she said Friday.

The news release also cited greater competition and, more importantly, the lack of transportation services as driving factors in declining enrollment.

“It’s not located within a neighborhood, and families have to have transportation (to get to at the center),” Boehnlein said.

Transportation to and from the center was discontinued nearly six years ago. There was no funding available after the organization paid supporting rent, maintenance, groundskeeping, utilities and custodial services, along with staff salaries.

Boehnlein said the center most affected by the discontinued transportation was the Oberlin center.

Full enrollment is at 60 students for this academic year, but most afternoons only 20 students are in the center.

“The morning classes have better participation and attendance,” Boehnlein said. “Overall attendance has been a challenge.”

The closing also affects 10 employees, who will be relocated to other locations within the county. Staff was notified April 28 of the impending closure. Three employees have already relocated to the Wellington Schools classroom, she said.

Ron Nabakowski, chairman of the board, said he has not heard any backlash from parents or staff members regarding the closing of the Oberlin Head Start.

“We’re not happy about it, but it was necessary to do. It was no longer feasible to have a center in Oberlin,” he said.

Shauna Matelski, Head Start director, said thanks in part to two new partnerships and restored funding, services will continue within the area. In addition to the Wellington Schools classroom, a double session classroom will operate at the Children’s Developmental Learning Center on the Amherst/Oberlin border. The eight infants who used services in Oberlin will be relocated to Hopkins-Locke Head Start in Lorain.

“We have loved being at our Oberlin center. After more than a decade, it is extremely difficult, but necessary to make this change,” Matelski said.

Boehnlein said the center is working with parents and staff to ensure a smooth transition.

Starting in the fall, home-based services will be available based on restored sequestration funding. Recruitment is underway for home-based services. Families are able and encouraged to apply at www.lccaa.net.

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MLinebrinkCT.

SAYING FAREWELL

  • An open house will be 3 to 5 p.m. May 22 at Oberlin Head Start Center, 12078 Leavitt Road, for former students and their families to visit.