National Donation Won’t Keep Handy Head Start Open

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) A donation of $10 million will keep several Head Start programs open across the country, but the Handy Head Start in Florence will not get any of those funds.

School leaders say they must read between the lines.

Florence Schools Superintendent Janet Womack says a glimmer of hope in the Handy Head Start funding crisis, got darkened by details.

"I as much as anyone want to see a solution so that education can continue for many years in the Florence community but at the same time I must make decisions that are fiscally sound," said Womack.

Womack says two philanthropists donated millions of dollars to the National Head Start Association. However Womack opted out of the contribution.  That's because the Handy Head Start gets its grant money through the National Office of Head Start.

"We as a school district can't act on ‘what if's’.  We have to have concrete information because there are many implications for the entire school district if you`re acting on ‘what if’s’," said Womack.

According to Womack, if the district accepts funds from the National Head Start Association that money must be paid back.

Right now, Womack says she's not sure if the original $2 million in grant money the program was promised by the National Office of Head Start will be retroactive.  According to Womack, every day the federal government stays shut down, the program could be losing cash.

So while taking the money would be like an interest free loan, Womack says re-paying the National Head Start Association is a bill the district can't afford if the original grant money is getting slashed.

Unless the federal government takes action in the next few days, the Handy Head Start program will close at the end of classes, on Friday.

About 280 students attend the program in Florence.