Head Start program to be offered by alternate agency in Walker County

Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 at 10:43 PM CST
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WALKER CO., Ala. (WBRC) - Walker County School Superintendent Joel Hagood has been fielding a lot of phone calls from upset parents, thinking they were doing away with the Head Start program, a program that serves three and four-year-olds by offering education, health and nutrition to low-income children and families.

“We’re not closing or eliminating the Head Start program, we’re just simply transferring the services to a local agency,” Haygood says.

The Walker County Head Start program services 221 students. It’s been under the Walker County schools’ jurisdiction for 30 years but the superintendent there says it would benefit everyone if it were moved.

"You know the governor’s slogan is ‘good start, good finish’.”

That agency being the Jasper Area Family Service Center. The school board had to vote tonight to not renew the federal grant in order to give the new agency a chance to apply. The Center has until July 1 to do so. The move could give the program more flexibility.

"And simply just speculating at this point, it’s possible that they could offer care for prenatal all the way up to age three, and that’s not something we offer now,” says Tim Husley.

The move will allow Walker County Schools to focus more and expand the first class pre-k program, which he says is also being studied by education leaders beyond our borders.

"People are coming from other states to Alabama to see what we've got going on because it is the premier early childhood curriculum and model,” says Hagood.

And he says the move will save the taxpayers money since the school system supplements 20% of the program, as well as any pay raises and benefits its teachers and aids receive.

“This is huge for the students of Walker county, we’re expanding services. We’re transferring that agency plus adding the 13 first class Pre-K units so that’s going to expand services to approximately 250 more students in Walker County.”

26 teachers and aids are being affected here. Hagood says they’ll be able to apply for the new Head Start program, and assumes the new agency would prefer hiring people with experience. Meanwhile, those who have proper credentials are encouraged to apply for the 13 new Pre-K classes they’ll be adding next fall.

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