I implore Missoula to help the Head Start program based at the historic Whittier School. The Missoula County Public Schools board has approved Superintendent Alex Apostle’s recommended sale of this 93-year-old school that has been the hub of Missoula Head Start (aka Child Start, Inc.) for 20-plus years.
I taught Head Start preschool for 16 years and I am alarmed that no one seems to be talking about what the impending sale means. It would be a devastating blow to Head Start and the Northside neighborhood if condominiums replaced this school and the playground.
This sudden priority seems premature considering the lack of input and discussion of the impact a sale would have on the program and the 200 low-income 3- and 4-year olds who attend the school.
What is the sudden need to dislocate a much-needed program? Missoula and four other counties have benefited and as far as I know they have not had to contribute monetarily. The school is maintained with the federal grant money Child Start, Inc. receives to educate 354 children in five counties.
The projected timeframe to sell Whittier is one to five years but it could take much longer to find a suitable place considering Head Start pays a $1/year lease for the school. Head Start also has to have other classrooms and has used classrooms at Target Range, Hellgate Elementary, Russell and Cold Springs. All of them expanded and had no room for Head Start. Just this fall Head Start had great difficulty finding three classrooms. Thankfully, DeSmet and a local church agreed to help out. This comes at a cost and there is no money to spare.
Please call your elected school board members and Apostle. Ask them to reconsider the sale of Whittier School. The Missoula Head Start board of directors could use your help.