GAINESVILLE — The Ninth District Head Start program was open Tuesday, 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, including Forsyth.
Cheryl Hoge, director of the three Head Start locations in Forsyth, said she was surprised by how quickly assistance came, but was thankful.
About 150 students attend Head Start in Forsyth at the community building on Samaritan Drive, the Hill Center and at Chestatee Elementary School.
Parents have “just been very grateful,” Hoge said.
The primary concern for officials 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.”
Staff writer Jennifer Sami contributed to this report.