Citizens want answers about Head Start

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A group of about 20 concerned citizens turned out Monday for a meeting to discuss the temporary closure of the Opp Head Start, which is currently affecting 77 students.

Last week, the Southeast Regional Planning and Development Commission, which administers Head Start programs in Southeast Alabama, abruptly closed the doors to the low-income preschool facility. The Commission cited a demolition project on the former South Highlands Elementary School campus, where Head Start is located, as the reason for temporarily closing.

Opp Head Start employees are driving to work in Geneva, Florala or Andalusia in order to receive a paycheck.

The group gathered Monday was concerned about single mothers who have had to stay out of work in order to keep their children since they cannot afford to pay babysitters.

There was much discussion and the group decided to field their questions to District 4 Opp Board of Education member William Hines to him to discuss at today’s board meeting.

The general consensus was that group wanted to know the following:

• Why the children were moved to the South Highlands Elementary School campus, if there was a known asbestos problem?

“Why take one set of students out and put another there,” asked Aaron Bogen. “They just recently closed the lunchroom.”

• Why the asbestos abatement could not have waited another month?

• Why alternative means were not made for the children to be housed at another facility such as Opp Elementary School?

• Specifically where the asbestos is located in the buildings;

• If the abatement is done, is it really safe for children to attend school there?

Councilwoman Mary Brundidge said she talked to the Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart and Ron Holliman, who heads the Head Start, in November and suggested that the roof be replaced during Thanksgiving and that the demolition be done during Christmas, while children were not present.

Brundidge said the roof was redone during Christmas break.

“I was told they would tear down after the school year was over,” she said.

The group was encouraged to attend today’s Opp BOE meeting at 4:30.