Thompson Head Start to undergo renovation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Attempting to leave days of leaky roofs and other facility problems in the past, AJFC Community Action Agency will hold a groundbreaking this month to kick off a $3.1 million renovation at Thompson School.

&uot;When we finish with it, it will be a state-of-the-art building,&uot; said Lamar Braxton, CEO of the community action agency.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, D-Miss., has been invited to attend the groundbreaking, which will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, at Thompson School on North Union Street.

The federally-funded AJFC Community Action Agency houses its Head Start program at Thompson School, which is licensed to hold 504 children in the program.

About 400 children now attend the school, which offers education and daycare services for low-income families of children who range in age from newborn to preschool.

Thompson School has long been plagued with roof problems causing the agency to be placed under probation with the Mississippi Department of Health.

This spring, AJFC Community Action Agency began a $379,000 project to put a new roof on the original section of the school, a section of the building not used by students, Braxton said.

Once the roof work is finished around May 30, other building renovations will have top priority, he said.

&uot;As soon as the roof is completed, then we will start renovations to the interior of the building,&uot; Braxton said.

The renovations will cost about $3.1 million and are part of a quality improvement program by the Administration for Children and Families – AJFC Community Action Agency’s funding organization.

The renovations will include new paint, wiring, lighting and plumbing for Thompson School, Braxton said.

Renovations will also include computer hookups and bathrooms for every classroom.

&uot;(Thompson School) will almost be gutted,&uot; Braxton said.

The renovations are a way to serve families as well as preserve Natchez history, said Royal Hill, family and community partnerships manager for AJFC. Before integration, Thompson School was a school for black students, and the school has an active alumni organization.

&uot;From the preliminary drawings that I’ve seen, it’s going to be something the whole community (can) be proud of,&uot; Hill said.

The renovations should also send a positive message to parents, he said.

&uot;We just want to … make sure that the community knows what’s going on so people can feel good about sending their children to us,&uot; Hill said.

The renovation project will take place in two phases, with the first phase to be completed by the fall and the second phase not to begin until May 2002, Braxton said.

The school schedule will not be affected by the work, Braxton said.

Hill said Head Start still needs support from the community and local businesses in its efforts to assist young children.

By reaching children at an early age, Hill thinks the rewards can be great.

&uot;The more emphasis that we place on the child on the front end the better that product that we have on the other side of it,&uot; Hill said.

AJFC Community Action Agency receives more than $4 million annually in operational funding. It offers services in a nine-county area with Head Start facilities in four of those counties.

The agency will also host a groundbreaking at 3 p.m. March 27 in Gloster for the construction of a new Head Start facility for that area. AJFC is also working on plans to acquire a building in Wilkinson County for its Head Start facility in that area. The Wilkinson County School Board owns the agency’s current Head Start building and the school board wants to convert it into a public school, Braxton said.