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Head Start cuts back classes

Parents under the gun to find options for their children


    Parents of students attending Head Start in Tate last week received a letter saying  classes would be canceled on Thursdays and Fridays until October 1, resulting in almost two months of shortened weeks for students and teachers. The move left many parents searching for places to  care for their children while they work.
    According to a letter from Kay Laws, Head Start Director for Ninth District Opportunity which controls the Tate-based location of Head Start, she said when notice of funding was received, “the amount was dramatically

less than needed to operate the program. Since that time, our board, executive director and myself have been working tirelessly in an attempt to secure additional funding from the Office of Head Start. We were notified on August 8th there were no additional funds available and we would have to modify our service delivery.”
    When contacted by the Progress, the local director, DeLaine Murphy, said she was told not to make any comments to the media regarding the issue. Despite numerous calls to Kay Laws at Ninth District Opportunity, she too refused to be interviewed, instead opting to email a prepared statement.  
    It reads: “Ninth District Opportunity received insufficient funding to operate the Head Start program five days per week. Therefore, we decreased the number of days children would be in attendance to three days per week until October 1st rather than close the program entirely for three weeks. We felt this would lessen the impact on the families and staff. Our agency is attempting to secure additional funding and, if it is received, the Head Start program will resume its five day per week operation.”
    David Jones’ grandson attends Head Start in Tate but said, “thankfully I’m retired and can help out.”
    “It won’t impact me as bad as some others because I’m retired and able to keep him those two days but my daughter is a single mom and works and is in school so if I wasn’t here to help it would be a problem,” Jones said. “If she had known this was going to happen then she could have put him in the other one.”
    Jones said his main concern was for the teachers at Head Start who won’t be getting paid for those two days of work for seven weeks.
    In Laws’ letter to parents, she said, “Please know that our program understands the hardship this change may cause your family and explored many options prior to making this decision. We apologize for any inconvenience this change in services causes your family. We hope you will continue to support our program during these next seven weeks and look forward to resuming full operation beginning October 1st.”
    Parents are upset with the move considering they could have sought to enroll their  children in other Pre-K classes - either with the Pickens County School system’s lottery-funded program at Hill City Elementary or the First Baptist Church of Jasper’s  program. Additionally, day care centers throughout the county offer five-day-a-week care.
    Head Start is for children ages three and four while Pre-K is solely for four-year-olds.
    “My child lost her place at the local daycare to go to Head Start,” said a parent who asked they not be named for fear of retribution against his child. “Now this is more of a frustration than inconvenience for me, but I bet others it really puts them out. I am not sure how Ninth District keeps winning their contract, but in my opinion they are one of the worst running groups.”
    When the Progress contacted Director Murphy again Tuesday afternoon to find out how many students attend Head Start this year, she said was unable to answer even that question as she had signed a confidentiality statement saying she would not talk to the media.