Head Start kicks off renovations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001

With shovels firmly in hand, preschoolers and adults broke ground Tuesday for building renovations at Thompson School.

&uot;This is a real good day for us,&uot; said Lamar Braxton, CEO of AJFC Community Action Agency, which operates Head Start at Thompson School. &uot;We’re just so happy all of you have come to share in this experience with us.&uot;

The $3.1 million in renovations will repair longtime problems at Thompson then convert the building into a state-of-the-art facility, officials said.

Last spring, officials with AJFC Community Action Agency thought they might have to close the school due to censure from the Mississippi Department of Health and concerns about asbestos.

Tests conducted for asbestos last year came back negative, officials said.

Patt Sermos, district licensing officer with the Mississippi Department of Health, said Tuesday’s groundbreaking was good news to her.

&uot;I wanted this done, and it’s going to happen,&uot; she said.

Sermos is pleased with efforts to change the conditions at Thompson School.

&uot;You can’t have children in unsafe conditions, and that’s my bottom line,&uot; Sermos said.

The Administration for Children and Families, which funds AJFC Community Action Agency, will also fund the $3.1 million renovation.

Once it is complete, students will have refurbished classrooms, a new kitchen and a new multipurpose room. Electrical and wiring systems will be upgraded, and new ceiling and floor tiles installed.

&uot;We’ve been waiting for this day,&uot; said Mamie Mazique, Thompson School program director. &uot;It’s going to be a safe, healthy place for (the children).&uot;

Thompson School educates about 400 students ranging in age from infant to preschool. The school is licensed to hold about 500, but Braxton said once the renovation is complete the school will be slightly smaller, holding just more than 400.

&uot;I really believe with the renovation of this building we’ll probably have more children that we can serve,&uot; Mazique said.

The renovations are expected to be completed next fall.

George Harden, a former board chairman AJFC Community Action Agency, said Tuesday’s groundbreaking was the type of activity he wants to see around Thompson School.

&uot;It’s good to come back to the black community and see some federal dollars invested in this area,&uot; Harden said.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted to give Thompson School to AJFC Community Action Agency last summer who in turn agreed to let the members of the Sadie V. Thompson Era Alumni use the gym, auditorium and cafeteria.

The alumni are looking into ways to renovate those sections of the school, which served as a black school prior to integration.

&uot;(There is) so much history behind this building and we just want to preserve as much of it as we can and bring it back so it can be used for various functions,&uot; said Willie Minor, alumni president.

AJFC Community Action Agency also broke ground Monday at the future site of a new Head Start center in Gloster.