PORTLAND — The People’s Regional Opportunity Program last week announced it will close the Redbank Head Start/Child-Care Center at 72 MacAurthur Circle in South Portland.
Although the center is equipped to serve 30 children, about 14 children are expected to be affected when the center closes on Sept. 30. The families currently enrolled will be allowed to transfer their children to any of the other 13 Head Start centers in Cumberland County, most likely to centers located on Cumberland Avenue or Munjoy Hill.
“Our first priority is always the people we serve,” PROP President and Chief Executive Suzanne McCormick said in a press release. “Our staff will work hard to ensure that every family has a successful transition.”
PROP provides services to low-income individuals, so families enrolled in the South Portland program may find it difficult to transport their children to centers in Portland. But McCormick said PROP may be able to subsidize alternative childcare or transportation costs, whether on a public bus or in a taxi, for struggling families during the first year.
“Transportation is always a challenge for families with low income,” she said. “We’re going to try and be incredibly creative for them.”
A $500,000 reduction in state funding prompted PROP to close the Redbank program.
Jon Wojciechowski, PROP senior vice president, said the 11 employees at the Redbank center are being allowed to apply for other positions within the organization to reduce the number of layoffs.
This will be the second Head Start center in South Portland to close in as many years. In addition to Redbank, PROP operated a similar program at the former Hutchins School on Mosher Street, but closed that center last year due to low enrollment and an inability to keep up with repairs to the 1900s-era school.
Although some families are taking the closure of the Redbank center in stride, McCormick said, for some, losing the PROP support network is difficult and she worries about a possible domino effect for families who will no longer be served.
“It’s incredibly sad for some families and it will be incredibly challenging,” she said. “When you rely on child care, it becomes part of your family.”
PROP said it will continue to offer all other programs and services to South Portland residents, including its school-aged programs at Kaler Elementary School.
Last year, PROP served 12,000 South Portland families.