Head Start Programs Open for Now

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SCRANTON – Head Start programs in 11 states have been forced to close because of the government shutdown, but none in northeastern and central Pennsylvania just yet.

Head Start programs that have a fiscal year beginning in October were the first affected by this government shutdown. More than 20 programs in 11 states are closed so far.

It was another day of learning ABCs, shapes, and colors at South Scranton II Head Start.  The doors are open during the government shutdown.

"We're teaching them the letters, the numbers, shapes, colors, but we're also teaching them social skills, emotional skills, how to deal with different emotions that they're feeling, said South Scranton II Head Start teacher Sarah Owens.

But several Head Starts in 11 different states aren’t as lucky. They are closed because their fiscal year began October 1 and they have no money to operate.

The Lackawanna Human Development Agency’s executive director says other shutdowns could happen.

"There's no national staff, so they may decide over a period of time that without those supports in place that it's best just to close everything,” said Scranton Lackawanna Human Development Agency Executive Director Sam Ceccacci.

Many believe the government shutdown is hurting morale.

"It's very frustrating because they're not here in the center really seeing how it's affecting the children and the families and us as staff,” said Owens.

But this government shutdown doesn't just have teachers at South Side Head Start in Scranton nervous, it also has many parents across northeastern Pennsylvania worried about what may happen.

Scranton mother Alicia Grajales can work now that her son is at Head Start, but says if the program closed, it would be devastating to her.

"If it wasn't here then I probably would be in a real big hole because I wouldn't be able to work and I wouldn't be able to get things done and he'd be with me all the time," said Grajales.

Saint Alvarez is a sheet metal worker in Scranton and says a shutdown would hurt his family as well.

"It's going to be harder, with the kids, finding babysitters, day cares. A lot of people can't do it,” said Alvarez.

But for now, school is still in session.

There are about 175 workers in Head Start programs across Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna, and Lackawanna Counties, all of whom are anxiously waiting for the government to get back on track.