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Head Start program cutting 200 students in SD

RAPID CITY (AP) -- About 200 children will be removed from South Dakota's Head Start programming during the school year as part of a 5 percent budget cut, organization officials said Tuesday.

Youth & Family Services officials anticipate closing Deadwood's program by May 31, eliminating 20 students and a staff of four, the Rapid City Journal reported. Another 12 or 13 students enrolled in home-based Early Head Start programming in Rapid City also will have to look for an alternative.

The program had allotted about $20.6 million for South Dakota, but the Office of Head Start called for nationwide cuts in a March 1 memo.

Youth & Family Services "regrets the impact these cuts will have on children and communities," said its associate executive director, David Miller, in a news release. But Miller added that the organization "will continue to advocate for effective early childhood services that prepare children for school and for life."

South Dakota Head Start Executive Director Kathy Kruse said cutting just staff or training wouldn't be enough to stop enrollment cuts.

"We can't say we're going to cut out training to keep kids," she said. "If we are going to cut teachers, we can't maintain adequate programming. The idea is to maintain the quality of the program."

She added, however, that cutting students was the last thing program directors want to do.

Head Start spokeswoman Sally Aman said deciding what to cut falls on local program directors. She said options to make ends meet include cutting hours or reducing the number of days in the school year, staff or enrollment.

"Each program has to decide what works for them," she said.