Children’s Institute to take over Head Start centers in South LA

Headstart | Stephanie Monte

Families protest the close of Kedren Head Start at its offices in Watts. | Stephanie Monte

Parents, children, and employees gathered outside Kedren Head Start in Watts yesterday to protest Kedren’s move to pull out of L.A. County’s Head Start program, a decision that comes on the heels of news that the County is losing federal funding for the preschool program designed to aid low-income families.

The L.A. County Department of Education said services will continue as usual once Children’s Institute takes over for Kedren. The two are among a couple of dozen program operators in the county. Kedren runs close to 30 centers with many in South L.A., including several in Watts alone.

Keisha Woods, L.A. County’s Head Start director, said programs will still be offered for families from Watts, Burbank and South Park even thought Kedren relinquished its grant.

“Every returning child…will have a space in the program as with their siblings,” said Woods. However, she said the department is still “working out” just where the sites will be and the number of students each can accommodate.

Josie Calderon, a parent and vice president of Head Start’s policy council, said her biggest concern is that there will be almost 300 fewer slots for children.

“Out of 727 children served here, only 450 children will be able to be served,” said Calderon.

Her four-year-old son Jaden keeps busy with a variety of activities at one of Kedren’s Head Start centers in Watts.

“We learn about puzzles, drawing, we have the art area, the play-doh area, the house area, and the library,” said Jaden. If the program, which is close to his home, shuts down, the boy said he guessed he would just “stay home.”

Nina Revoyr, executive vice president of Children’s Institute, said her organization is committed to keeping services in South L.A.

“It’s not that Head Start services in Watts are stopping. It’s that Kedren is not going to be providing them because LACOE is not continuing their funding,” she said. “It’s a natural fit for us to continue to serve Head Start families here in Watts including the housing developments, which I know is a great concern for the families here.”

Kedren’s contract with L.A. County ends June 30.