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UPDATE: JCCEO Head Start Center in Crestwood set to reopen

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -

UPDATE: The JCCEO Head Start Center at the Festival in Birmingham would reopen Oct. 4, for children not displaying any symptoms, according to a JCCEO representative.

The center closed for 10 days due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The parents we spoke to said they were excited to get their children back in school and learning at the center. They also expressed well wishes to the staff affected by COVID-19.

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The JCCEO Head Start Center at the Festival in Crestwood South shut down days into the start of the school year and parents complained they were having a hard time finding childcare.

JCCEO apologized profusely but said their hands were tied due to safety concerns connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frustrated parents reached out to WBRC for help. One of them was willing to speak anonymously.

“Now I don’t have anyone to watch my children while I go to work or school,” the parent explained.

The parent said students had their first day of school the week of September 20. The students were divided by their last name and told to attend on designated days for half a day.

Their child attended that one, half-day of school, they said, then they got an email from the center announcing its closure due to COVID-19, with the expectation of being out for weeks.

“We don’t know when they’re going back,” the parent complained.

Now the parent and others WBRC spoke to said they were left trying to find childcare, but there were very few options available that offered financial assistance.

“Everywhere is full. You have to get your children into programs before school starts, or you’re not going to get them in,” the parent explained.

A JCCEO representative emailed us a statement: “Due to a COVID outbreak amongst the teaching staff and multiple exposures, the center had to be closed for the safety of children and other staff members at our Festival Center location.”

WBRC asked why students weren’t being relocated to one of the other four centers.

The statement added: “We are also experiencing a nationwide teacher shortage, preventing the children from this location from being able to attend a different location. DHR has a strict student-teacher ratio, which requires a certain number of students to be in each classroom. We’re currently seeking qualified teachers and teacher assistants at JCCEO.”

The parent we spoke to said until they could secure childcare, they were relying on family and friends to help out.

“It would’ve been nice to have more notice or at least know when they’ll be going back or to have an alternative,” the parent complained.

JCCEO said they are actively hiring in hopes of getting the center reopened and keep the other centers in operation.

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