Head Start still faces trouble

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 21, 2000

Adams County Supervisor Darryl Grennell says he was surprised by a recent phone call from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Grennell said a department official told him Thompson School Head Start will be closed March 31 if the leaks in the school’s roof aren’t fixed.

&uot;It really took me off my feet when she said that,&uot; said Grennell who discussed this conversation during last week’s board meeting.

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Bill Hewitt, also of the health department confirmed there was a March 31 deadline.

According to Hewitt, the deadline is not a closure date, but is a date by which Thompson must prove it has made corrections or developed a plan for correction.

If it has not, the health department will have to look into other available remedies. Hewitt said details on what those remedies could entail will not be available until after March 31.

&uot;We’re trying to get that facility on track with our regulations,&uot; said Kelly Shannon, spokesperson for the health department.

The health departments is working with AJFC Community Agency, the federally funded organization that runs the Thompson Head Start center, and does not want to close Thompson, she added.

Thompson School educates about 500 to newborn to preschool-age student. AJFC offers programs in a nine-county area.

Roof problems are nothing new to the North Union Street campus. Leaks have plagued the building for years.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors spent $40,000 in 1994 and and $16,000 in 1998 and more to $5,000 in 1999 to fix sections of the roof. The board also spent $48,000 last year just to repair the school’s auditorium roof.

&uot;We’ve been repairing it and every time we repair it another spot begins to leak,&uot; Grennell said.

The county also spent close to $3,000 last year on electrical work for Thompson.

Because of the roof, the school has been under a probational license from the health department since last year. The license expired May 31.

Head Start Director Mamie Mazique is optimistic but she is also looking for temporary sites for the children in case they have to be moved to allow repairs to Thompson

For example, Natchez College, also on North Union Street has some available classrooms.

Mazique said there would be space at the college for some of the children if extensive repairs need to be done on specific roof sections.

Grennell faxed the health department paperwork documenting the work it had financed on Thompson.

&uot;We can’t afford to let Head Start shut down,&uot; Grennell said.

Right now the board is waiting to hear if AJFC CEO Lamar Braxton is able to locate grant funding to finance a new roof

&uot;I’m just sitting and waiting, trying to prevent it and I’m praying that they don’t shut them down,&uot; Grennell said.

An engineer with the Head Start’s regional office in Atlanta will examine the building this week.