CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – We have new details about the Savoy Head Start building closing.

Teachers at the Savoy building were told on a Friday just after 5 p.m. that the building would be temporarily closed for the year and they would be relocated to other buildings throughout the county.

Today, we have a response from the Early Childhood Director. It cites several reasons for the temporary closure.

Including the COVID-19 pandemic, which they said caused a huge shift in the early childhood community.

They also said they’ve been struggling to fill vacancies since 2020 and have been forced to close 15 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms across the five centers.

They said the decision was not easy, but they felt they needed to do what was healthiest for the entire program.

You can see the full written statement below.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused a huge shift in the early childhood community, which has increased staff vacancies across the country. Our program here in Champaign County has itself struggled to fill vacancies since 2020 as we have been forced to close a total of 15 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms across our five centers. There has also been a need to cancel class sessions due to employee absences. During the 2021-2022 school year, there were a total of 4,407 absenteeism hours. Recently, our program had nearly 50 vacancies out of a regular teaching staff of 140, but thanks to consolidating and reassigning some of our staff, the number of vacancies has dropped to 31. This consolidation and reassigning some staff led us to make the difficult decision to temporarily close our Savoy Early Childhood Education Center. Again, this is just a temporary move designed to help us establish more sustainable staffing across our entire program, at which point we hope to start up operations again at the Savoy center. RPC management did inform the Savoy staff 30 days before their work location changed, while stressing that their reassignments were part of an effort to keep our award-winning program running strongly. Staff were moved to the centers where the families and children in our program currently need us most, a move approved by the national Office of Head Start. The RPC’s Early Childhood Education program has a strong commitment to quality services, placing three teaching staff in each classroom to help ensure children are receiving the best pre-K education possible. Nationally, most Head Start classrooms only have two teaching staff. No one on our staff in Savoy lost their job, and they will all be reassigned back to the Savoy center as soon as possible. This decision to temporarily close the Savoy Early Childhood Education Center was based on filling staff vacancies, bringing stability to our workforce, and lessening the stress on our staff. In addition, we wanted stable educational services for our children and families. This decision was not easy, but we felt we needed to do what was the healthiest for the entire program.”

Brandi Granse, Early Childhood Director