Communication is key to Head Start’s future

Robert L. Ortiz |

The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Community Action Program (SUCAP) has held two Head Start Facility Planning meetings, the first on Wednesday, Jan. 17 and the latest, Wednesday, Jan. 24 at the Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility, in Ignacio, Colo. The meetings were initiated by the Southern Ute Head Start (SUHS) parent policy committee.

The meetings were an opportunity for those in attendance to participate in four groups: Facility Planning, Fundraising, Communications and Cultural Education – to develop cultural education within the Head Start curriculum.

“It’s wonderful to see the amount of community support in setting up the facility meetings,” SUCAP Executive Director, Eileen Wasserbach said. “We had about 20 to 25 people attend each meeting and we raised over $500 from donations from those two meetings.”

Each respective group brainstormed ideas for what may be needed for the new facility and what the facility might look like.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and interest from staff, and community members, who want to see a great Head Start,” Wasserbach said.

Fundraising is a priority in planning for a new facility. The Head Start plans to launch a few fundraisers in the near future.

“Start looking for raffle tickets, as they will be coming soon.” Southern Ute Head Start Director Char Shank said.

SUCAP has a vehicle donation program in place; 80 percent of the auction price for donated vehicles can go to SUCAP, further funding the Southern Ute Head Start Building.

Communication is key. SUHS will implement two social media accounts to aid the community in keeping up to date with the progress of the new facility. A “Friends of Head Start” Facebook account and a Twitter account should be up and running soon.

Site identity is a clear priority, SUHS hired a project manager, Russell Planning and Engineering (RP&E) of Durango, who have been tasked to help identify the most suitable site options for the school’s new facility.

RP&E is working with the Southern Ute Tribal Planning Department to see if a site can be located in Tribal Campus, or if a site on Ignacio School District property can be found.

“Site identification is first priority” Shank said. “Cost and infrastructure of the site, as well as the pros and cons of each site need to be identified for our new home.”

The need to stay relatively close to current Tribal buildings is a necessity stated by Shank, “We work closely with the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy and the SunUte Community Center.”

Although not an ideal setting, currently Head Start is split between the two modular buildings, and the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.

The current Head Start has found a temporary home in the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, with a one-year lease given to SUCAP by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. All Head Start programs have been operating since the move, Nov. 6, 2017.

Presently the two modular buildings, just east of the main building, are being used for all of the infants and toddlers; Head Start students ranging from 6-weeks to 3-year of age.

“Those modulars are almost 25 years old,” Shank said. “We encourage people to come take a tour of the modulars, and the current space being used at the Museum.”

“It has been difficult for staff, and an added burden for staff,” Wasserbach said. “But for the kids, and families, it’s now business as usual. We’ve adapted, but adapted with [a few] quirks in our routine.”

As of October 10, 2017, the Southern Ute Head Start, which was shut down as directed by the Southern Ute Tribal Council to eliminate any exposure to asbestos in the building, which was built in the 1930’s.

The Southern Ute Head Start serves, 44 percent Native American, 33 percent Anglo, 17 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent bi-racial children; serving 129 pre-school, infant and toddler children.

If you want to tour the current modulars and the current classroom settings at the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, contact the Southern Ute Head Start at 970-563-4566 to schedule a time to visit.

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