pow head start BEST

The existing building housing Head Start programs in Pownal could soon be replaced by a new structure on the parcel near Pownal Elementary School. The regional elementary school board is considering a special town meeting vote on the proposal in June.

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POWNAL — The regional elementary School Board is considering leasing a parcel near Pownal Elementary School for construction of a new building to house Head Start programming.

Today, the Southwest Vermont Union Elementary School District Board will consider sending the proposal to voters in the four-town district during a June 13 special town meeting.

The proposal calls for leasing a 58-foot by 89-foot building site at a nominal annual fee to United Children’s Services of Bennington County Inc., a division of United Counseling Service, which oversees Head Start programs for preschoolers.

As was the case in Bennington on a site near the Recreation Center on Gage Street, the Head Start program and UCS will provide grant funding to construct the building.

In Bennington, a $3.5 million, 13,500-square-foot addition was constructed at the Recreation Center on a site leased from the town.

Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, director of early childhood services at UCS, said the planned Pownal building would be modular, carrying a much lower estimated cost of about $700,000. It would be set on a 4-foot foundation, she said.

Rathbun-Gunn added that there “will be no impact on the local taxpayer,” with most funding coming from grants through the federal Head Start program and the balance provided by United Children’s Services.

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The 5,162-square-foot parcel is off Schoolhouse Road, about 15 feet from the northerly wall of the Pownal school’s kindergarten wing, according to the proposed town meeting warning. The existing 27-year-old Head Start building will be razed as part of the project.

The hope is for the new building to open by late summer or early fall, she said.


As part of the initiative, a 25-year lease with one 25-year renewal term at an annual rent of $1 is proposed, according to the special meeting warning. The School Board will consider the proposal on Tuesday at 5:50 p.m. at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Central Office on North Street in Bennington.

The School Board would also hold an information session on the project June 12 at the Central Office.

The special town meeting would be warned in Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford.

Contacted Monday, town of Pownal Executive Assistant Tara Parks said, “Although the town hasn’t had involvement in this yet, I wanted to share my excitement that Head Start will continue to provide much needed services in town.”

Jim Therrien can be reached at therrienjim76@gmail.com or by phone at 413-281-2646.


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