FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – News that the W.C. Handy Head Start will close its doors due to the government shutdown forced parents of 280 students to start looking for a new place to send their children.
“A lot of people can’t stay home with their kids so they rely on programs like this to be able to go to work, have their kids be educated, to give a better life for our children,” said Jennifer Swank, parent of two children who attend the program.
Derrick Broussard sends his son to the W.C. Handy Head Start. Another child already graduated from the program, and his wife teaches at the school. Broussard is just one father, deeply impacted by a lack of federal funding.
“I think overall it’s just damaging to the community as a whole, the services Head Start provides, it’s compromised, it’s done for,” said Broussard.
Florence school leaders say they’ve had the federal award letter in hand for months and were counting on more than $2 million.
Then, another unexpected letter informed staff a government shut down would suspend all grants through the Administration for Children and Families.
“I think it’s tragic, and I’m ultimately more upset than anything because I see these kids all the time, I see the community it affects and the first thing that goes through my mind is who’s going to be around to take care of these kids?” said Broussard.
That question is a question on many parents’ minds as they tread the uncharted waters. Parents are forced to wait on for the government to come to an agreement, but even then, school leaders say funds for this Head Start program cannot be guaranteed.
The last day planned for children at the W.C. Handy Head Start is Friday, October 11.