Head Start parents deserve answers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 22, 2000

Imagine this: You’re a single, working mother. Your 4-year-old son, Jimmy, is eligible for the federally funded Head Start program in Natchez. You plan for him to attend the program, giving him a jump-start on his education.

But it’s June 22; registration is under way for the fall term. And no one will tell you if the Head Start program will be able to provide services this fall.

That’s not a hypothetical situation.

Email newsletter signup

It’s one that hundreds of parents face this summer as they wait in limbo for some sort of resolution to the problems facing the AJFC&160;Head Start program here in Natchez.

The shame of the matter is that no one seems ready to provide solutions to those problems.

The program has been operating for more than a year under a provisional license granted by the state health department — provisional because constant leaks to the roof at Thompson School and other building woes leave the physical structure inadequate.

This summer, citing lingering concerns over possible asbestos contamination complicated by the leaking roof, the health department placed the program under a restricted license — limiting its service to only 112 youngsters.

And, although health department officials recently extended the deadline on resolving the restricted license issues, the ultimate fate of the program remains in doubt.

Lamar Braxton, CEO&160;of the AJFC program, has said he believes the asbestos tests will prove negative and the health department will lift the license restrictions. If that happens — and that is a big &uot;if&uot; — the program could receive permission to enroll the more than 500 students slated to enter in the fall.

Or, the program could remain under some type of provisional or probationary license, based in large part on the Thompson School building, which seems to be falling apart.

The point is, no one really knows what will happen.

And Mr. Braxton and the other Head Start officials are offering few answers.

And that is unacceptable.

The parents and children who benefit from the Head Start program deserve answers and a break from the limbo of uncertainty, and someone needs to give them answers — soon.