Government shutdown would close Head Start, cancel events at Kings Mountain park

adys@heraldonline.comSeptember 30, 2013 

If a federal government shutdown is not averted this week, local Head Start pre-kindergarten classes for 864 students will be canceled after Friday, and the annual Kings Mountain battle events in western York County will be called off, officials said Monday.

Head Start has money to last through this week but would have to close after that unless the federal shutdown is stopped, said Walter Kellogg, executive director of Carolina Community Actions, the agency that administers the federal program for low-income families in York, Chester, Lancaster and Union counties.

Head Start began alerting parents, families and employees Monday as the federal government shutdown appeared ready to begin overnight. In a letter to parents and employees, officials said that without a resolution, “no children will be in attendance and staff is not to report to work” after Friday.

“Without the government acting,” Kellogg said, “we will have to close all of our centers.”

The Rock Hill center has 35 employees and more than 260 children, but all employees in all four counties at eight centers would be affected. Head Start also has programs for disabled children that would be cut until the federal budget showdown is resolved.

The area Head Start centers affected are among 20 programs across the nation that have fiscal years that start in October, meaning they would have to close, said Kim Gray, site manager for the Rock Hill Head Start center.

“Quite often, the people whose children attend here do not have other options for child care,” Gray said. “This affects the children and staff, but it also affects every family, if the impasse is not fixed.

“While the politicians argue, the children will suffer.”

The only hope is that “these politicians will come to their senses” this week before Head Start has to close, said Brother David Boone, chairman of the Carolina Community Actions board of directors.

“What is happening affects the education of the children,” Boone said, “but also every parent who is working when their child is at Head Start.”

A government shutdown also would affect national parks. Events scheduled from Saturday through Oct. 7 to mark the 233rd anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain at the Kings Mountain National Military Park would be canceled if the shutdown takes place, said Chris Revels, chief ranger for the park.

The park straddles the county line between York and Cherokee counties, but it is mostly in York County. The battle anniversary is the largest event at the park each year and attracts thousands of visitors.

The Oct. 7, 1780, battle was a turning point in the Revolutionary War, during which patriots defeated British troops and loyalists.

“October and November are our busiest months,” Revels said. “But if the government shuts down, we would have to close. There would be no events on the anniversary.”

More than 1,000 special education students who were scheduled to attend events Friday would not be able to go, Revels said.

The park would have to close today if the government shutdown happens, Revels said. About 20 employees would not be able to come to work – only Revels and another law enforcement ranger would remain to secure the property.

At area Army National Guard armories, four full-time staffers would be furloughed by the shutdown, said Lt. Col. Corol Dobson, commander of the 178th Combat Engineers headquarters at the Rock Hill armory.

Dobson, who returned from his second combat deployment in May, would be one of the four soldiers affected.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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