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CSI Head Start Center in Buhl closes

Rosa Hernandez, family educator, begins to take down and clean out the CSI Head Start Center April 30 in Buhl.

BUHL — The College of Southern Idaho is still weighing options for its Buhl Head Start center, which was shuttered in April.

Due to a failing foundation and plumbing problems, CSI closed the building at 11th Avenue North, which was constructed in 1910. To continue providing services, about 20 low-income children in the West End are being transported by school bus to the Twin Falls Head Start center this school year for preschool classes.

CSI plans to return to Buhl for Head Start, but the facility situation is complicated. The building is 100 percent federally owned, meaning it’s not as simple to get a loan to rebuild or buy another property as in the private sector.

A commercial appraisal of the property was recently completed, said Mancole Fedder, director of CSI’s Head Start/Early Head Start programs. He said he’s in the process of learning what documentation would be required in order to sell the property.

An option could be using proceeds from a property sale to purchase different land and then apply for a Head Start emergency fund grant to build a new center, Fedder said.

He plans to have a phone call soon with the Head Start regional office in Seattle to get clarity on the process.

“In the meantime, we were able to fill our classroom with West End children in Twin Falls,” Fedder said.

In total, 20 West End children — from Buhl, Filer and Castleford — are receiving services together in one classroom this school year. Two staff members from the Buhl center are teaching the six-hour preschool classes.

Back in Buhl, Head Start staff is working on the old center to make sure it’s winterized — such as to avoid water damage or burst pipes — and that the building is locked up, Fedder said.

Since 1999, CSI has received federal grants to operate Head Start/Early Head Start programs and oversees 10 centers across southern Idaho. Last year, the Hailey Center closed — a way to cope with a Head Start budget shortfall.

Head Start offers preschool classes, while Early Head Start is for pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age 3. They’re federally funded programs free of charge to families, but parents must meet federal poverty guidelines.

CSI doesn’t have a lot of involvement with Head Start facilities, said Jeff Harmon, vice president of administration at CSI. “It’s their dollars that are buying and leasing facilities. We’re not a big player.”

In the spring, CSI received a report from a structural engineer about the Buhl Head Start building’s condition. Initially, employees thought they could finish out last school year in the facility.

But officials found out in April a large chunk had broken off an old sewer pipe and it would cost thousands of dollars to upgrade. Officials decided to close the center instead.

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