Parents question Head Start readiness

7 Head Start centers will remain closed

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Head Start program is scrambling to get its act together for the schools to open by Sept. 3. The hustle is happening after firing Jacksonville Urban League as the local provider.

Seven of the Head Start centers in Jacksonville will remain closed for the school year and Thursday night, parents were given the chance to ask questions about all the changes.

Lakeisha Wheeler joined over 100 parents Thursday to hear about Head Start and why she doesn't even know what center her child will attend.

"Really don't know what's going on, that's why I am here," said Wheeler.

The head of the Head Start program, Yvette Sanchez, spoke to parents Thursday to explain what was happening in Jacksonville and which centers will open come Sept. 3.

"So the seven centers we closed a lot of the health issues were around stable safe facilities," said Sanchez. "To give you a couple of examples there were serious mold issues, there were serious issues in terms of structure, so you could stop on the floor and there would be some soft spots there. The air was not healthy, lots of awful smells you could tell the facilities and centers have not been maintained in many years."

Many parents of first time students are worried about the safety of the remaining centers.

"It's not a good thing and my son is going to be sick going there," said parent, Rachel Dekle. "You get sick from mold, people can die from mold."

Congresswoman Corrine Brown was also at Thursday's meeting. Brown said she is concerned about how unprepared Head Start appears to be.

"To me, Head Start is extremely important," said Brown. "We had some problems at the end of the year last year, and I would have thought that those problems or challenges would have been worked out and we would have been ready to go."

Some parents of students who attended the seven closed centers found out Thursday night where their child will go in September. Sanchez told parents who still don't know where their kids will attend the Head Start Program come Sept. 3, and that they will be receiving letters with more information. Shanchez told parents that with all the changes in Jacksonville, the program is still working out details.

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