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Hill County gets grant to study Head Start building


The path has been cleared for the District IV Human Resources Development Council to study the possibility of building a new home for the Northern Montana Head Start program.

Hill County has been awarded $20,000 in Community Development Block Grant money to study the community and environmental impacts of constructing a new Head Start building in Havre, according to the Montana Department of Commerce. The proposed 12,000-square-foot building would consist of six classrooms and 11 offices, said Annmarie Robinson, deputy director of Bear Paw Development Corp.

Robinson wrote the grant application for Hill County.

The study will help HRDC decide whether to construct the new building east of its building on Fifth Avenue. The money will be used to hire engineers and architects to plan and design the building, as well as perform an environmental checklist, Robinson said.

The application was submitted in April and approved late last month.

Northern Montana Head Start has outgrown its present home in Highland Park, Head Start director Frank Witter said.

Part of the problem arose in 2000 with the consolidation of local elementary schools, Robinson said. Head Start used classrooms in several different schools and lost space when the schools merged and Devlin School closed, she added.

Head Start in Highland Park consists of three buildings with a total of four classrooms and three offices, which are shared by 10 teachers and a number of aides. The number of students enrolled in the program has forced teachers to share classrooms, Witter said, giving teachers little time for teachers to prepare between classes.

Another problem is that office equipment is located in the basement of one of the buildings, and is not handicap accessible, Robinson said.

The grant money will "be used to determine whether or not it's feasible to build a new facility or move to another existing building," Witter said.

After the study is performed, the next step will be to secure funding for the actual building, Robinson said. The CDBG program has follow-up grants that might fund the construction, Robinson said. Such grants require a 25 percent local cash match. The proposed building would likely cost more than $1 million, she added.

Head Start serves the developmental needs of preschool children from low-income families. The program in District IV HRDC serves about 150 children from Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties.

This year, the Montana Department of Commerce awarded 16 grants totaling $220,250 from the Local Government Planning Program that's part of the CDBG program. The maximum amount that can be awarded through the program is $20,000. Hill County was one of five government entities to receive the maximum award.


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