Head Start Centers Reopen Amid Rumors Of Budget Cuts

Let the learning begin again. On Monday, Head Start Centers in Gulfport and Saucier welcomed students for the first time since the hurricane. Families talked about how happy they are to have this education program operating again.

Stacy Gooden says it felt good to get her son Derek back in class. The months since Katrina haven't been easy for the working mother.

"Oh, it has been hectic," said Gooden. "It was hard finding childcare and when you did find it, it was so expensive, it was hard to pay for it."

Parents weren't the only ones excited to see Head Start start back. Hundreds of pre-schoolers arrived ready to learn and play.

Marsha Wallace has two daughters in the program.

"They have been wanting to come back since the day after the storm. They have really missed being at Head Start."

Class size at Head Start didn't drop after the storm. That's because the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency has only been able to reopen two of its nine Harrison County centers.

"Parents are calling every day asking 'When is my center going to be open," said Head Start director Linda Harvey-Irvin. "Of course, we know that our parents need us as much as we need them. We're working very hard to try to get those centers back on line, but it is creating a waiting list. We don't want our families to lose faith."

Harvey-Irvin says her agency must also keep the faith, faith that money will be found for repairs and faith that Head Start won't end up on the federal government's chopping block.

"There are some questions," said Harvey-Irvin. "There are some grave concerns about the future of Head Start. I understand there may be some drastic budget cuts to the Head Start program but we haven't gotten there exactly yet. I think it would be a serious error to place such a worthy and progressive program in jeopardy."

The hardest hit Head Start centers were in Turkey Creek community in Gulfport and on Nichols Drive in Biloxi. She says volunteers have been helping at both locations to try to get them open again