After a six-year delay, the Head Start school on the Stewart Indian Colony should be complete within weeks and ready to open in September, thanks to U.S. Air Force volunteers.
The 459th Civil Engineer Squadron arrived April 3 and began work immediately - replacing Sheetrock, recommending design changes and making overall improvements to the initial work started six years ago by a job corps.
Concrete had been laid and exterior walls erected before the job corps abandoned the site. Head Start leaders could not find another group to compete the work, until the fortuitous connection with the Air Force.
The 459th, with 20-30 people coming in two-week shifts, expects to finish the Head Start school in five weeks. The 5,100-square-foot building will house four classrooms, a kitchen, administrative offices and two full-size children's bathrooms. There will be a playground out back.
"I'm so excited," said Gail Brown, family service coordinator for the Washoe Tribe. "We're as happy as can be."
It's three weeks until the deadline.
"In the back of my mind, I'm skeptical it will get done because of how long it's taken," said Sharon Doan, Head Start program manager. "We've already made such progress on it though, we feel like we will have our school open for next year."
The Washoe Tribe Head Start program has been teaching 3-5 year olds for nearly 10 years. For most of that time, it's been at the community center on the Stewart Colony.
Doan said she's grateful the tribe has let them operate out of the center. The new school is next to the community center on Clear Creek Avenue.
About 25 men worked Thursday at the site, including Senior Master Sgt. Arthur "Flea" Flecker Jr., who fastened a gutter to the exterior of the building in the afternoon sun. Flecker, a full-time warehouse manager from Virginia, is one of a few men working beyond a two-week shift.
"I had my boss's permission to take off a month to be here," he said. "It's a humanitarian project. Any time it's a humanitarian project, he supports it."
The men are all Air Force reservists and while volunteers for the project, do receive government pay. "The whole thing for us is training," said Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Woody, project manager of the site. "It's to get the training we need for the Air Force. We have a lot of young guys coming through, so if we're called up to go somewhere, this gives them the knowledge to know what to do."
The unit is an engineer squadron. Members have worked all over the world on similar projects.
"This is what we do," said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Ellington. "We are a construction company. There's really nothing construction that we can't do."
When the school is finished, the squadron will have three other projects to complete before its late June departure - repave the parking lot in front of the school and the community center, build a 1,400-square-foot house on the Stewart colony and build a wellness center on the Dresslerville colony in Gardnerville. About 150 people will have rotated through the four projects.
The Washoe Tribe Head Start program is the only one in Carson City and is open to all children age 3-5. Despite a small waiting list every year, Doan said they do their best to find a place for everyone.
The program offers buses to pick up students, morning and afternoon meals and basics in letters and numbers. Some children even start to learn to read.
"(The Head Start program) is kindergarten readiness," Doan said. "It's to give the children a head start for kindergarten. We have teachers in the Carson City School District who say they can tell when the kids come in from Head Start."
The Washoe Tribe Head Start Program
• Open to children ages 3-5
• Preference given to Washoe Tribe children and Carson City residents, but children from outlying areas are accepted.
• To apply, call Sharon Doan at 265-1074
• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.