WEST PITTSTON — Kim Gittens said her 5-year-old son Travis is a different child than he was when he first started attending Luzerne County Head Start.
The West Wyoming resident said her son is developmentally delayed, but the program has helped him learn skills that are expected of him at his age.
“When he started here, he couldn’t talk and he wasn’t potty trained,” Gittens said. “Most preschools won’t take children if they’re not potty trained, but now he’s thriving. He’s outgoing, and he’s doing very well. I don’t think he’d be the boy he is today if not for Head Start.”
According to its website, Luzerne County Head Start is a comprehensive preschool program for low-income children ages birth through 5 years old. It provides children with a developmentally appropriate early childhood education.
There are Head Start locations in 11 school districts, including Pittston Area and Wyoming Area.
Travis is in his last year with Head Start, but he, along with the other students and teachers, may not see the school year reach its conclusion.
The Wyoming Area School District-based Head Start is currently located in the Corpus Christi Parish School on Luzerne Avenue, but it won’t be there for much longer as the program must leave the school by the end of April to accommodate the space used for the parish’s flea market.
Luzerne County Head Start Executive Director Lynn Evans Biga and Luzerne County Head Start Board Member Lori Nocito said the program moved into Corpus Christi in October knowing it would be on a temporary basis.
“Now they’re saying that the end is near,” said Nocito. “We met with Msgr. (John) Sempa and he did say because of the flea markets they have during the parish bazaar, the rooms are used for storage and display.”
The toughest part of moving out of the building is that it interferes with the program’s school year as it continues beyond April.
“Even though they’re being generous to us, that is before the end of our school year,” said Biga. “We’ve got six more weeks beyond the end of April. We have six weeks of school that we’re not sure how we’re going to accommodate the children. But, in the end, we need a permanent home anyway.”
The Wyoming Area-based Head Start accommodates children ages 3 and 4 in West Pittston, Wyoming, West Wyoming, and Exeter. There are currently 34 children in the program and an additional eight on a waiting list.
Of the children in the program, seven have a disability and five have been enrolled with a homeless status.
Biga and Nocito said this will be the fifth time the school has moved within the last three years, as it was originally in the Wyoming Area Intermediate Center in Wyoming before moving to ABC Kiddie Campus in Pittston, then the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind in Exeter and eventually to Corpus Christi.
Biga said she is reaching out to various other parishes and organizations to see if any of them can accommodate the children.
“Our reach to the community is, is there anybody out there that knows of space that can be used for on an ongoing regular for the purpose of Head Start services for low-income children and families that live in the Wyoming Area School District,” Biga said.
Accommodations would need to include two classrooms of at least 740 square feet per room, a bathroom, a kitchen area, and outdoor play area.
Both Biga and Nocito said, that while a permanent home would be beneficial, a temporary one to at least help close out the school is all they need. They would also like to find a new place no later than February or March.
Head Start is both federally and state funded and rent can be negotiated.
Gittens is also with the Parent Policy Council, a group of parents that helps oversee each Head Start Program, and she said they’re all doing their part to help find a new facility.
She said the constant moving has been tough on the kids and she hopes it comes to an end, soon.
“With children, transition is difficult,” she said. “With Travis, it’s gotten better because we try to make it positive. But, it is difficult for them. You adjust your transportation and then you get comfortable and it’s like ‘No, wait, we have to move again.’ It’s difficult, and it’s difficult for them not having a permanent home.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher