Head Start Faces Tough Rebuilding Challenges - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Head Start Faces Tough Rebuilding Challenges

Catchy tunes and happy faces are back at the Turkey Creek Head Start Center in North Gulfport.  A year ago, Katrina shut down classes there, when it flooded the building with five feet of water. The Head Start center is only one of three that are up and running.

Kara Grady is grateful for a place to send her two children, so she can continue taking college courses in Early Childhood Development.

"The children, they need this program," said Kara Grady. "They learn so much and they get a lot of things here that sometimes they may not get at home."

Congress has set aside $16.6 million to relocate and rebuild the six other Head Start centers that were severely damaged or destroyed in the storm.  But local Head Start leaders face some major obstacles. They have to find land that's high and dry, in an area with the greatest need, and it has to be affordable.

"It's a huge dilemma," said Linda Harvey, Director of the Head Start program.

Harvey also faces a looming deadline. 

"We're working against the clock," said Harvey. "We're given initially 25 months to get that construction completed.  As you know, it's not so simple as saying, 'Here's the money, let's build.'"

Harvey remains optimistic though, because she knows what goes on in the classrooms will change lives.

"Bright, new shining places to go back to," said Harvey. "It won't erase the memories of the storm, but it will contribute to the re-growth, rebirth of this area. Two years. Not easy, but possible."

Head Start leaders are working with the Biloxi School District to lease some classrooms at Jeff Davis Elementary. That way, they can bring the program back to East Biloxi, until a new center is built.

by Trang Pham-Bui

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