May 17th was a joyful day for Nome Head Start, so joyful in fact that teacher Janet Balice and the kiddos in the Blueberry classroom were dancing and jumping with excitement (and for fun exercise!). The children were greeted with their smiling teachers as well as a brand new classroom space! “The children were very happy to be back and the teachers were happy to have them back as well,” reflected Teacher Aide Lisa Sookiayak. “I felt very lost without the kids and now that they are back I feel like I have a purpose at work. I love my job!” The teachers and aides did an amazing job making their classrooms feel welcoming and ready for the students, and you would not recognize it from the space a month prior when it was looking like an abandoned hospital. The new location at the old hospital will temporarily host the Head Start classrooms until January 2019 when the renovations on the Head Start building are completed.

We recognize the challenge the delay presented to parents, students and staff as the transition to the temporary Head Start location took longer than planned. Kawerak assisted families with finding child care, and did everything possible to speed up the process. While waiting for the state licensing to come through, it was a day by day wait to find out when services could resume. During the wait, Kawerak hosted a potluck on May 8th for parents, which involved delicious food (of course), a fashion show featuring the Head Start and Early Head Start kids, and dancing lessons by the Nome St Lawrence Island Drummers and Dancers. It was wonderful to host everyone together.

After a long wait, the call came in late in the afternoon on May 16th giving the go-ahead for the children to return to school. Kawerak didn’t waste a moment to call parents and tell them the good news of resuming services the following day…and everyone shouted for joy and breathed a giant sigh of relief!

These changes, although inconvenient at the moment, are the necessary steps for us to take while we prepare for new and better down the road. Kawerak Inc recently purchased the Nome Head Start building from the City of Nome in order to proceed with improvements as well as cut costs of rent. Funds that paid for rent will then be designated toward other services and projects. Renovations to the Nome Head Start building include adding two infant/toddler classrooms and extensive renovations to existing classrooms and kitchen. We have been patiently waiting for the pieces to fall into line for these updates to happen, and we are so excited to finally see it come to life! We are looking forward to our updated facility, as it will better meet the need for the community.

Head Start building at the beginning of the renovation process 3/9/18.