The Head Start preschool that serves children in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Lawrence will close at the end of this school year, officials said.
Carolyn Kelly, executive director of the Community Children's Center in Lawrence, which operates the local Head Start program, said the organization was forced to close the preschool at Edgewood Homes, 1600 Haskell, due to federal budget cuts known as "sequestration."
That refers to the estimated $85.4 billion in automatic spending cuts that were triggered earlier this year when Congress and the White House were unable to reach agreement on a deficit reduction package.
Shannon Oury, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority, said she hopes to find another day care provider to replace the Head Start preschool.
"They've been a great partner, and we're sorry to lose them," Oury said.
The Housing Authority Board met Monday night and voted to issue a "request for proposals" for another day care provider. However, Oury said, because it normally takes at least 90 days to obtain state licensing, she doubts the new day care will be open by the start of the 2013-14 school year.
Head Start is a federally subsidized preschool program for children ages 3 to 5 from low-income families.
Kelly said those cuts will result in a loss of about $17,000 for Community Children's Center. To absorb that, she said, the organization will eliminate two teaching positions and reduce the number of Head Start preschools in Lawrence from three to two.
Kelly said there were 15 children enrolled in the school at Edgewood this year, but 10 of those will move to kindergarten in the fall. The remaining five will be transferred to the school at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 945 Vermont.
The other Head Start preschool in Lawrence is the Johnny Appleseed school, located at the First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold.
Kelly said the Community Children's Center took several factors into consideration in deciding which school to close, including the fact that many Edgewood residents may have a hard time finding transportation to another Head Start preschool.
But she noted that the Lawrence school district operates a preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds at Kennedy School, which is near Edgewood Homes.
Oury said about 61 children live in housing provided through the local housing authority, including about 44 in the Edgewood complex. Nearly half of those are 5 years of age or younger.
Based on a recent survey of residents, she said, most families have other day care arrangements, but 93 percent of residents indicated they would like a day care facility in Edgewood.