Thompson Head Start gets extension on restricted health license

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Thompson School Head Start has received an extension on its restricted health license pending the official results of asbestos testing.

Kelly Shannon, spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Health, said the school can continue to operate for two to three more weeks past its June 21 expiration date.

&uot;We just want (the children) to be educated in a safe environment,&uot; Shannon said.

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During the school year, more than 500 preschool age children attend Head Start at Thompson.

Until the asbestos tests are finalized, AJFC can only keep the children in certain sections of the building and can only educate 75 4- and 5-year-olds and 37 children age 3 and under.

Currently, the school is educating 40 Early Head Start children and 85 older Head Start children, which is about a normal enrollment during its summer day care program.

The Adams County-owned Thompson School has a long history of roof and other problems and has been operating under a probational license from the health department.

And just this month, the health department placed the school under a restricted license and required the school’s operator, AJFC Community Action Agency, to conduct asbestos testing.

Lamar Braxton, CEO of AJFC, said the tests are so far coming back negative. The asbestos contractors have not found any asbestos in the air or in ceiling tiles at the school.

The contractors found asbestos in floor tiles, but the vinyl has locked the asbestos inside the tile, so children are not at risk, Braxton said.

The school is still waiting for the official reports on the testing and should receive them in the next week to 10 days, he added.

Health Department officials &uot;strongly believe in the goal of Head Start and what Thompson is about — which is educating youth at a young age,&uot; Shannon said.

But the last thing the health department wants to do is endanger anyone’s health, she added.

&uot;We would be defeating the purpose,&uot; Shannon said. &uot;We would be hurting the children while trying to help them.&uot;

The health department has ongoing concerns with the Thompson facility, but the concern currently holding up the license is the asbestos tests, she added.

In the midst of the asbestos testing, AJFC is also looking at ways to decentralize the Thompson Head Start program into three separate zones.

Braxton said AJFC is considering having a site at Thompson School and building permanent structures at Morgantown Elementary and West Primary, both owned by the Natchez-Adams School District.

The plan should reduce the size of the student population at each site and benefit the children by placing them in a neighborhood school concept, school district and Head Start officials have said.

AJFC does not expect to implement this plan in time for the upcoming school year, but Braxton believes all of the children should be able to attend school at Thompson this fall.

Eventually the school will need a new roof, but the health department has not said the school can not operate without a new roof, he added.

The school has operated under a probational license for more than a year, because of the roof problems.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors spent $40,000 in 1994 and $16,000 in 1998 to fix section of the roof, but it continues to leak.