Will Head Start Get A Late Start?

With Repairs To School Delayed, Director Plans To Tutor Children At Home

April 03, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Even without a school, Renee Foote is determined to give children from Brooklyn Park a head start on their education.

Anne Arundel's Head Start project director intends to tutor preschool children at home next fall until civic leaders rehabilitate the dilapidated Lloyd Keaser Community Center in Pumphrey.

The Pumphrey civic association wants to refurbish the old school on Belle Grove Road to house two Head Start classes and an adult day-care program. But renovation plans have been tabled until contractorsdetermine whether the ceilings and walls contain asbestos or lead.

"We're still proceeding, even if there's a holdup," Foote said. "Westill have September in our minds as a date to move toward. But evenif the (community center) isn't ready, we're going ahead with our home-based program."

Head Start officials have recruited teachers toprovide instruction at home until the center is ready, Foote said. Forty parents from the Brooklyn Park area have submitted applications to enroll their 3- and 4-year-olds in the federally supported, community-based preschool program.

Children from Brooklyn Park neighborhoods rarely had a chance to participate in Head Start before, since the closest classes are in Freetown, a public housing project in Pasadena. The county also offers two Head Start programs in Annapolis.

When the county's Head Start program received $71,000 from the federal government to expand, officials immediately targeted the North County area. The county program has enough money to underwrite classes for 26 children, but organizers expect to enroll as many as 67 with additional federal financing, Foote said.

Pumphrey leaders initially hoped to finish renovating the Keaser Center in time for classes to start in September. But financial and structural snarls have delayed the work.

The civic association won't find out until July whether the county will grant its request for another $300,000 Community Development Block Grant. The county has already earmarked $60,000 from a previous federal block grant, said Kathleen Koch, assistant planning and zoning officer. Pumphrey civic leaders face stiff competition thisyear from other Anne Arundel community organizations vying for a share of the $2 million Community Block Grant pot.

Since refurbishingthe community center to meet state standards for day-care programs could cost up to $300,000, the block grant is essential, said Princeton McClure, a member of the project task force.

The dust-covered rooms targeted for the preschool program were sealed off for nearly a decade and need substantial repairs. A door must be cut through the outside wall to provide another access, a toilet must be installed and other renovations are required.

Task force members also are waiting for a report to determine whether the building's heating plant mustbe replaced, which could cost up to $34,000.

Renovation plans areon hold while an architectural and engineering firm inspects the rooms for asbestos and lead, McClure said. If the old, acoustical-style ceiling contains large amounts of asbestos, the civic association would be forced to spend thousands of dollars on removing the carcinogenic insulation, he said.

A preliminary study by the county years ago indicated the building contained no asbestos, Koch said. But another inspection is being completed because state regulations require certification that there's no exposed asbestos or lead paint in buildings used for day care, she said.

Checking for asbestos and lead paint is routine, the first step to completing a project like renovatingthe Lloyd Keaser Center, Koch added. She said the inspection should not delay the renovations.

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