Head Start classes begin

13 schools re-open after program was suspended for health, safety problems

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After the Labor Day holiday weekend, hundreds of young students in our area are finally starting the school year at several Head Start centers in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Urban League ran the local program for more than a decade but was suspended in spring of 2013 after the government found health and safety problems at some of the schools. Since then, a temporary company has taken over and will open the centers Tuesday.

It's been a frustrating few months for parents with students who go to school at Head Start centers in Jacksonville.

The centers were suddenly closed early for summer break because the national office of the government-run Head Start program said it found several violations. Only 13 sites will re-open Tuesday, seven others remain closed.

"So the seven centers we closed, a lot of the health issues were around stable safe facilities. To give you a couple of examples there were serious mold issues, there were serious issues in terms of structure so you could step 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 the centers have not been maintained last many years," said Yvette Sanchez.

All funding and grants were pulled from the Jacksonville Urban League which ran the local programs for 17 years. Since then, a temporary company called Community Development Insitute, or CDI has taken over.

Parents have been extremely concerned about the safety and health issues in question. More than 100 of them went to a meeting about head start a week and a half ago. Congresswoman Corrine Brown was there, too.

"To me, Head Start is extremely important. 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," said Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

Although a couple weeks late, Syteria White is just glad the children are finally heading back to school.

"Kids need to go to school. At this age, this is when they are learning a lot, this is when their brains are soaking up the most," said White.

A few other centers will re-open after Tuesday. CDI called parents and sent out letters about where children will start school Tuesday as well as transportation logistics.

If you still have questions about where your child will go, you can call CDI at 904-721-9788.

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