Site closure results in classroom relocations

From the Town of Auburn - Town Manager Julie Jacobson and her team - including  (from left) Matthew Benoit, Darlene Coyle, and Eileen Dyson-Alexander

From the Town of Auburn – Town Manager Julie Jacobson and her team – including (from left) Matthew Benoit, Darlene Coyle, and Eileen Dyson-Alexander

The Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. held a celebration Monday evening at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Auburn to acknowledge and thank several key individuals and organizations who assisted the agency with relocating 81 children from a Head Start site in Oxford following an emergency evacuation and subsequent closure due to a severely leaking roof in February. Dubbed Head Start Heroes, WCAC presented certificates of appreciation and potted plants – featuring hand prints of Head Start students – to individuals who played a critical role in the eventual relocation of the displaced students to three alternative sites – the Guild of St. Agnes Daycare in Webster, St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Auburn, and expanded classrooms at WCAC’s existing site at Cole Avenue in Southbridge.

Recognized for their efforts included:

  • Ann Flynn representing the Guild of St. Agnes Daycare Center in Webster which offered WCAC in-kind use of a classroom for 17 students from the Webster area. The classroom opened on March 6th, a month to the date of the evacuation.
  • Reverend Paul Bomba and Lisa Wass, Director of Religious Education for St. Joseph’s Parish of Auburn which is providing three classrooms serving 32 students from Oxford and Millbury. The center has both full and half-day options with transportation provided. Those classrooms opened on March 27th.
  • Town of Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson and the town’s department heads, including Matthew Benoit, Darlene Coyle and Eileen Dyson-Alexander, who expedited local permitting and site reviews required to allow use of the parish center for Head Start early childhood education.
  • Linda Perno representing AA Transportation which provides bussing to students to both the Southbridge and Auburn sites, having rearranged routes and even adding students from the town of Southbridge who previously didn’t have access to transportation.

“The disruption caused by this unanticipated closure posed a severe hardship on the families who rely on Head Start care for their children,” noted WCAC Executive Director Jill Dagilis. “We are eternally grateful for the many individuals and organizations who stepped right up and answered our call for help. We were welcomed with open arms into all three of these new sites and are thrilled to have been able to secure high quality space to continue to provide these most vulnerable children and their families these important educational services.”

Thank you Head Start Heroes!  Submitted photo.

Thank you Head Start Heroes! Submitted photo.

Not in attendance at the ceremony but also acknowledged for their assistance were: Southbridge Public Schools Superintendent Sheryl Stanton and Director of Operations Walter Solzak, who expedited expansion of WCAC’s center space at 25 Cole Avenue by bringing two additional classrooms online, allowing 34 additional students from Webster for a half-day program; Paul Fontaine and his staff at Liberty Movers of Leicester who in a single day and surrounded by nearly three feet of snow, were able to move five early childhood classrooms and all their belongings to the alternate sites; Jeff Szczypien of J&D Cleaning who with his team shoveled some 18 inches off the roof of the former site prior to the onslaught of water issues; and Matt Gorski of Matt’s Maintenance which assisted tremendously with snow removal following the evacuation of the former site to gain access to a storage pod, as well as clearing emergency exits at the Parish Center.