Head Start is making plans for new facility

By Lynn R. Parks

The first step in the construction of a new Head Start facility in Seaford was accomplished last week, when the Seaford City Council voted unanimously to donate the building in which the preschool program is housed to the Southern Delaware Center for Children and Families First. The organization, which runs three Head Start programs in Sussex County, intends to demolish the building and build a new school on the Front Street property. "This is very exciting," said Carolyn Williams, Southern Delaware Center for Children and Families First executive director. "This has been a goal of the organization for a long time, but always before it got dropped. This time, we will go all the way." The assessed value of the 1,312-square foot building is $57,100 and of the nearly 15,000-square foot lot it sits on, $14,900, said Sharon Drugash, spokeswoman with the city of Seaford. The older part of the building was constructed in the late 1930s as an office building for the Delmarva Peninsula distributorship of the now defunct Pure Oil Company (see accompanying story). Pure Oil merged with the Union 76 Oil Company in 1965 and left Delmarva; the building was used as a time for apartments and in 1969, the Head Start program was started there. "We have happy children, and they are safe coming here," said site coordinator Cindy Griffith. "But we definitely need a new building." The facility, with room for 102 children, is too small. About 20 children are placed in private homes and another 20 to 25 are on a waiting list. Workers constructed a wooden balcony-like structure in one classroom, about 4 feet above the floor, to add to the square footage. The new building, with eight classrooms, will be able to accommodate about 140 children, Williams said. The wiring in the old building is not adequate for the computers that teachers would like to have, Griffith said. The building is also in poor repair. In a memorandum to the city council, city manager Dolores Slatcher told the city council that if Head Start remained in the building, improvements to the building would have to be made. "We are always making a lot of repairs and maintenance," Griffith said. Maintenance costs are shared between the city and the Southern Delaware Center for Children and Families First. The organization pays no rent for the facility. Williams hopes that the new building is in use by September 2007. She said that no firm plans have been drawn of the new school. She expects that it will be built farther back from Front Street than the current building, which is separated from the street by a few parking spaces. She also plans to keep the modular building, which is attached on the north side of the facility and which houses offices.
Center manager Tanya Buffalo said that services at the center, which is open year-round, will not be interrupted. Children will have class in the old building while the new building is under construction, then will move into the new building while the old facility is demolished. Williams was unable to estimate the cost of the demolition and of the construction. But she said that she has no doubt that the community will respond to her request for financial and in-kind support. A new building "will generate appeal to the community as a whole," she said. "The demolition of the old building and construction of a new building...will be beneficial to the neighborhood and another improved property on Front Street, a heavily-traveled area," Slatcher said in her memorandum. "Once the community knows we need a new facility, I think the community will rally around us," Griffith added. Buffalo, who started volunteering at the center 16 years ago as the parent of a student, said that parents of children who go there will also support the construction. "I had four children go through here, and have a grandchild here now," she said. "They all loved it here. All the other parents feel the same way, and that's how I know we are going to get a new building."

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