The Community Development Institution Head Start program plans to layoff 271 workers on December 31st. CDI operates head start centers in Iberia, Lafayette, and St. Martin parishes.

CDI submitted a WARN notice to the state of Louisiana about the job cuts on November 17th.

The St. Martin Parish School System will take over the four head start centers in the parish.

“At the end of the day, these are our students,” said Superintendent Al Blanchard. “These are our friends and neighbors. Those children will end up in our schools eventually. We felt it was an opportunity for us to serve our community. to serve our students.”

Blanchard says the school board recently approved rehiring about 75% of the head start employees, who will get retirement benefits and health insurance.

“We’re excited about it. We’re looking forward to it. We have an opportunity to run the program, to grow it. It’s a good program, and we’re going to try to improve on it,” said Blanchard.

Blanchard says the pandemic had a part in declining enrollment. The program in St. Martin Parish has 400 slots, but only 94 kids are participating. He says the plan is to grow the program over the next five years.

The statement below is from Community Development Institute.

“Community Development Institute (CDI) has been providing Office of Head Start (OHS) Interim Management services in Lafayette, Iberia and St. Martin Parishes at the direction of HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.  CDI Head Start began providing Head Start and Early Head Start services in Louisiana in July 2017, when the Head Start and Early Head Start grants for the provider at the time, St. Martin Iberia Lafayette Community Action Agency (SMILE) was summarily suspended and then terminated. 

In Fall 2019, OHS posted a competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to provide Head Start and Early Head Start services in Lafayette, Iberia and St. Martin Parishes. Several eligible agencies applied to the competitive grant opportunity. 

The FOA resulted in two successful awardees, Prime Time and St. Martin Parish School Board, to provide Head Start and Early Head Start services in this area.  They were each awarded a five year grant, effective September 1, 2020.  As the OHS Interim Management services of CDI Head Start are no longer needed in this community, they are phasing out operations.”