Head Start to end school 3 weeks early

By Tim Pulliam, General assignment reporter, tpulliam@wjxt.com
Published On: May 14 2013 04:13:57 PM EDT
Updated On: May 14 2013 07:42:30 PM EDT

Starting this Friday, about 2,000 Head Start students here in Jacksonville will end their school year EARLY. It's the result of a federal takeover of the local Head Start, that's requiring the hiring and training of NEW staff. And parents tell us they're not happy about it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Nathaniel Borden is one of the parents surprised by a letter he received from the Community Development Institute late last week saying classes would be ending for his youngest child on Friday.

It's a huge inconvenience for him and his wife, who have two girls ages 4 and 5 along with full-time jobs.

"So now come next week, while my other daughter is still in school, now we are going to have to find someone to watch our 4-year-old while we both go to work or one of us is going to have to take off from work," Borden said.

The Community Development Institute took over managing the Jacksonville Urban League's Head Start program last month after the organization's leadership was suspended due to unresolved code violations and safety standards.

CDI told parents in the letter that it determined some aspects of the Head Start program did not ensure children's safety, so to correct the matter, additional staff needed intensive training. As a result, classes for children older than 3 and those enrolled in the Voluntary Pre-K program will end Friday, nearly three weeks earlier than expected.

"We are truly sorry for any disruption this may cause your family, but strongly believe that it is necessary to ensure the safety of your children," CDI said in the letter.

It's estimated the change will affect 2,000 Head Start students.

Borden said his 4-year-old was heartbroken.

"She's wondering why my 5-year-old is able to stay and go to school and she's not able to go to school, being that she just started in January," he said. "She was saddened."

Antonio Wright is one of the lucky parents. His stay-at-home wife will be looking after their two children. He feels for the families who now have to shuffle their schedules around.

"It's going to suck for them, but they'll find a solution," Wright said.

It's a problem many parents are trying to figure out.

"They should have given people more notice than what they did," Borden said.

Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell said the company that took over the Head Start program has the right to make these cuts. He said DCF is urging parents to make sure their children are in properly licensed and maintained day care facilities.

If they can't afford it and are looking for guidance to more affordable options, contact the Early Learning Coalition at 904-208-2044.

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