Number of Head Start students to be cut in half

Published 10:10 pm Monday, July 10, 2017

The number of Head Start centers in Dallas County is being cut in half.

The Black Belt Community Foundation, which was recently awarded $1.4 million to operate Head Start centers in Dallas, Choctaw, Marengo and Wilcox counties, did not receive the same amount of funding other grantees did in the past.

“What has been given previously was enough to serve over 670 children, and the grant funding this year was to serve 307 children,” said Felecia Lucky, president of the BBCF. “There was a reduction in funding to serve a number of children.”

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Lucky said the Black Belt Community Foundation applied for the full funding, but it was not awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start.

“It was our goal in our application to serve all of the sites that were currently being served, but the Office of Head Start chose a different funding route,” Lucky said.

Last year, Community Development Institute Head Start, an interim operator, oversaw 13 centers.

Eight of those centers were in Dallas County, and the BBCF was only funded enough to operate seven centers total with four of those in Dallas County.

“It’s given me and the organization quite a bit of heartburn because it’s really bittersweet for us. We’re really happy that we were able to get the grant to serve it locally, but then we’re also still distraught that some centers won’t be served. It’s not like we’re consolidating and just moving them. It’s that there is a complete reduction in the number of children.”

The George Washington Carver Homes, J.E. Terry Elementary School, Keith High School and Trinity Lutheran centers will not be open for the new school year this fall.

The BBCF will operate centers at Edgewood, Knox Street, Southside Primary and Tipton in Selma/Dallas County. The other three centers will be in Butler in Choctaw County, Camden in Wilcox County and Linden in Marengo County.

“We’re going out into the communities and meeting with the parents to let them know what the options are, and that is that they can send a student to the Head Start that is nearest to the address that we have on file for them,” she said.

Lucky said all of the returning 254 students will have a spot in the centers, and they are working on finding a way to transport students.

Theresa Kimbrough, who worked at the center in Orrville, addressed the Dallas County Commission Monday and asked them for their support.

“I was just here to bring my voice and let you all know what’s going on and maybe if you can have any influence or rally or whatever we can do collaboratively … to see if we can at least get some classrooms at Keith because they serve the area of Marion Junction, Five Points, Orrville, Safford, Alberta, all those areas,” she said.

Kimbrough, as well as Lucky, are encouraging parents to let their voices be heard.

Dallas County Commissioner Curtis Williams said he was told U.S. Rep. Sewell (D-Selma) had a meeting with the Office of Head Start on Wednesday.

“She’s going to do all that she can to try to help us in that area because economically, socially and in many other ways, it’s effecting that community,” Williams said Monday.