CEDA Head Start needs a new home.

The federally funded early childhood education program has enjoyed a rent-free existence at 44 W. Madison St. since 2000 thanks to Mike Kelly and First Bank of Oak Park (now Park National Bank). The bank needs its space back, so Head Start needs a new space before classes resume in September after summer break.

Head Start’s 68-child enrollment comes from Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park. A move to Forest Park is possible, although two-thirds of the 3- to 5-year-olds come from Oak Park.

“We haven’t really gone to the table with people in Forest Park because the hope was always that we could remain in Oak Park,” said Marylee Doden, center director for CEDA Oak Park Head Start. CEDA is the agency that controls most Head Start programs in Suburban Cook County.

An informal group of early childhood care and education advocates met last week to discuss how they might help keep Head Start in Oak Park. The group awaits a report from CEDA, then will meet to see how they might help. Head Start has strict facility requirements, needing 35 square feet per child, a play area, a kitchen, a room for parents, and offices.

The program serves families that otherwise would not likely be able to afford childcare or preschool. Maximum salary for a family of two is $12,830, although 10 percent of the children can be from families not meeting that requirement. Head Start is also mandated to serve children with disabilities?#34;a minimum of 10 percent of its population.

A similar group of advocates helped keep Head Start when, in 2000, enrollment had slipped and CEDA planned to send local Head Start kids to its Maywood facility. Doden said that is not an option this time.

?#34;Drew Carter

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