Sequester: Head Start classrooms could lose students

As many as 120 spots for Rocky Mountain SER Head Start students could disappear as a result of federal sequestration, according to the local director of Head Start programming.

Rocky Mountain SER (Service, Employment, Redevelopment) serves 2,276 preschool-aged, low-income children or children with disabilities in Denver, the San Luis Valley and southern and western Colorado. Western Slope students in Mesa, Delta, Garfield and Moffat counties account for 493 of Rocky Mountain SER students.

As the largest of the state’s 45 Head Start chapters, Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain SER Head Start Director Judy Lopez said her chapter would likely be the hardest-hit in Colorado. Based on information from the state Head Start association, she estimates up to 120 of the estimated 700 Head Start slots Colorado could lose may come from Rocky Mountain SER sites, with possibly 13 of those disappearing from Mesa County.

Lopez said the exact impact of sequestration on local Head Start programming is still unknown. But with more than 100 students already on Rocky Mountain SER’s Western Slope waiting list, Lopez said any cuts could hurt local families.

“Any cut is going to affect our families. We certainly don’t want to affect children and families but we may have no choice” but to reduce enrollment, Lopez said.

That reduction likely will happen over the summer, Lopez said, so students aren’t likely to be kicked out of Head Start classrooms immediately after the sequester takes effect.

Lopez said she hopes budget reductions estimated at 5.3 percent or higher won’t lead to staff reductions, but that’s another unknown.


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