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Head Start opening today thanks to private funding
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The Ninth District Head Start program is open today, thanks to private funding.

Staff and parents were notified Monday that the preschool program was reopening, said Kay Laws, Head Start director for Ninth District Opportunity.

The program closed Monday due to the government shutdown, which coincided with the beginning of the federal program’s grant cycle.

Ninth District Opportunity’s Head Start covers 20 Georgia counties. The Hall County classes are at Riverbend Elementary, McEver Arts Academy, Jones Early Language Development Center and the E.E. Butler Head Start building.

Nearly 300 Hall County children are currently in the program.

The primary concern was the ability for parents to be able to find and afford child care on such short notice, which was given on Wednesday.

“If you’re needing someone to watch your children for a day or two, you might could locate family, friends, whatever,” Laws said at the time. “But if you’re having to plan for three or four weeks, then you’ll have to look at different options.”

After hearing about the Head Start dilemma, Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold donated $10 million to the National Head Start Association, temporarily funding programs across six states, including Georgia.

Laura Arnold is an ex-oil company executive and John Arnold is an investor. They chair The Arnold Foundation, a philanthropic organization established in 2008.

The annual grant for Ninth District’s is $19.8 million alone.

According to a news release, if the government funds Head Start for the full year when the shutdown is over, the local programs will repay the funds made available by the national association at no interest.

The funding should keep Head Start programs open through the end of October.

“We are hopeful that the federal government will have worked out the budget by this time, and our grant funds will be available once again,” Laws said. “In the meantime, we will be only making purchases that are necessary.”

Also affected is the Gainesville special needs class that operates in the E.E. Butler building.

Those students were set to move, first to New Holland Core Knowledge Academy and then Wood’s Mill Academy for the length of the shutdown.

Now that the building is reopened, Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said furniture and materials are being moved back to E.E. Butler.

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