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Bright Beginnings closing

The Bright Beginnings Preschool program will end at the close of the school year,

Andalusia Housing Authority Director Bobby Johns confirmed Wednesday.

Jones cited financial issues as the reason for the decision.

“To have this program, it has to be financially stable,” Johns said. “It costs about $150 per student per year for the tuition and we don’t have enough money coming in to maintain the program.”

The children who live in Housing Authority properties are able to attend for free. Other children pay tuition.

Johns said that the program receives partial funding from the city, but it is not enough to keep the program running.

Johns said that he has gotten little feed back from the parents, considering there are only 10 students enrolled for this year.

“We were having to pick up three year olds just to survive,” Johns said.

Bright Beginnings began in 1991. Martha Carter, then the director of the Andalusia Housing Authority, found that children who lived there fell behind and dropped out of school in the seventh grade. Longtime Bright Beginnings pre-school director Willie Thomas said he believed it was because they started school unprepared. In a 2013 interview, Thomas, who has since retired, said there had only been two graduates of Bright Beginnings who dropped out of school before graduating. Both lost their mothers to early deaths.

Further, Thomas’s statistics showed, those students ho spent two years at Bright Beginnings graduated high school in the top 10 percent of his or her class.

There are two other Pre-K options for local students – Head Start and the school system’s Pre-K programs.

“I honestly think this program is a little redundant,” Johns said. “We have several Pre-K programs that are pulling four-year-olds from Bright Beginnings.”

Head Start has 67 students enrolled in this year’s class, including the Early Head Start Program, and does not plan to limit the number of children that they enroll in the program.

“As long as we have the space we will be letting kids come in,” Head Start Director Tabatha Samuels said. “We won’t turn a child away from an education.”

Andalusia Head Start is a non-profit Early Childhood Development Program that serves children from zero to five years old. There is no charge for the program, because it is federally funded; however applicants do have to meet income qualifications.

Another option for parents would be to enroll their school in the city’s Pre-K programs.

As of Monday night, 101 potential students had applied for the available Pre-K classes in the Andalusia School System during pre-registration.

The city system currently operates three Pre-K classrooms, and is seeking funding for a fourth.

According to Sonja Hines, a district administrator for Andalusia City Schools, parents may still register for the city’s Pre-K program, and their children will be considered if an additional drawing is held.

The process to register is only available online at https://alprek.asapconnected.com.

“I do want to encourage the parents that have kids in Bright Beginnings,” Johns said. “That there are other options to take your child to.”