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Head Start Seeks New Grant Recipient For Jacksonville Programs

Cyd Hoskinson

After 17 years, the Jacksonville Urban League will no longer run the city's Head Start program.

The director of Head Start will be in Jacksonville tomorrow to meet with parents and answer their questions. The program is an early education initiative aimed at promoting school readiness for children from low-income families.

Jacksonville’s Head Start program will begin the day after Labor Day with one-third fewer centers than last year. 

According to the U.S. Office Head Start’s Shawna Pinckney, seven of the Urban League-run centers will not open with the rest because of uncorrected health and safety violations.

“Items that were found were lead paint, some splintering hazards, exposed play areas, false surfaces, etc, that really posed a risk to the health of children," she said Wednesday, speaking outside one of the shuttered centers on Moncreif Road.

"After trying to work with the Jacksonville Urban League, giving them opportunities to correct these findings, we decided to terminate their federal assistance.”

Pinckney says that in the seven years she's been with Head Start only eight grants have been terminated. 

The Urban League has 30 days to appeal the termination. But, Jacksonville Urban League President Richard Danford says he’s still waiting on the resolution of his first appeal, filed in April.

“We appealed the original suspension and we have 30 days to decide if we want to appeal the termination," he said "We appealed the suspension so if they haven’t acted on that appeal, why should we appeal something else.”

In the meantime, the company that took over from the Urban League will continue running the program until a permanent replacement is appointed. 

The Duval County School System and Episcopal Children’s Services have both expressed interest in applying for the $14 million dollar grant.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.