On top of everything else that teachers, staff and administrators have to deal with at the beginning of the school year, add this new twist: having to unexpectedly close most of your school building and find a new home for three classrooms, all within a few weeks.
That's what the Southern Ute Community Action Programs had to do for its Head Start preschool programs in October when asbestos was found in the crawlspace of its old building, which was built in the 1930s by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Earlier this month, Head Start Director Char Schank provided a tour of three new preschool classrooms, which will be located for the rest of the school year in the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.
While unexpectedly moving into a new space had its challenges, "the kids are really happy just to be back in school," Schank said. The new space has high ceilings, lots of natural light and works fairly well as classroom space. One large room was divided into smaller spaces for two classrooms, while another smaller classroom is nearby.
Because state laws require that all preschool classrooms have sinks, SUCAP installed pump sinks in the classrooms, which the kids think are really fun, said Eileen Wasserbach, SUCAP's director. Head Start's administration offices have moved upstairs in the museum, alongside museum administration. Head Start employs about 45 staff members, including teachers, substitutes, administrators and support staff, such as school cooks.
Head Start typically serves about 95 families, or 140 children total, in the Ignacio area.
Head Start is still using its modulars near the old school building for infant and toddler classrooms, which are across the street from the cultural center.
SUCAP has conducted a capital campaign for the past seven years to raise funds for a new facility. The hard part is finding the land to purchase, Wasserbach said. About 2.5 acres are needed in or near Ignacio.
"We've really struggled to find the right place and raise the funds to get going," she said.
Donations to SUCAP can be made at http://bit.ly/2zZw40H
Donors can type "Head Start Building Fund" in the special instructions section.
Checks also can be mailed to SUCAP, Inc. PO Box 800, Ignacio, CO 81137. "Head Start Building Fund" should be noted in the memo.
Both Schank and Wasserbach said SUCAP staff and parents are grateful to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for allowing them to use the classrooms for the rest of the 2017-18 school year.
SUCAP was founded by the tribe in 1966 and became an independent entity a year later, although it still uses tribal facilities. SUCAP celebrated its 50th anniversary in Ignacio last year.