DCF: Teachers, discipline main Head Start issues

Facilities reopened Wednesday; future solutions in place


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Head Start facilities reopened Wednesday, the Department of Children and Families says the main safety concerns prompting the program's initial closure three weeks early were the lack of qualified teachers and inappropriate discipline.

The only physical safety issue was a damaged fence at Kennedy Head Start, which was fixed in January, DCF spokesman John Harrell said.

To remedy the supervision issues, Harrell said, current staff has received more safety training, and Duval County Public Schools substitute teachers are also working at the facilities to help supervise. Those teachers have been background checked and are trained in first aid.

Last month, two of the schools -- Normandy and Springfield -- received Class I violations for poor supervision issues.

Now that those issues have been addressed, DCF said it is comfortable with the schools staying open until June 7, the end of the school year.

"We wanted to make sure that all the children in Head Start were getting the proper supervision," DCF Regional Director David Abramowitz said. "Education wasn't the real challenge. It was supervision at some of the centers. There are 24 facilities, and we just needed to have them emphasize supervision at some of these centers."

DCF said it will continue to do random inspections of the schools four times a year at different times throughout the year.

After June 7, Springfield Head Start will lose its license to operate, Harrell said. He said DCF had applied to get the school's license revoked in April because of several reported supervision issues, and the request was granted.

Springfield will have to reapply for its license to operate this fall.

The Community Development Institute, which took over the local Head Start program from the Jacksonville Urban League last month, has not yet said how long it will manage the Head Start program.