The Athens Independent School District is eliminating its Head Start program and will replace it with pre-kindergarten classes beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, Superinte-ndent Blake Stiles said Wednesday.
Head Start is a federal program aimed at preparing children up to age five and from low-income families for school. Athens ISD has five Head Start classes spread out between the Bel Air and South Athens elementary campuses. Stiles said the program in Athens consists of 100 children and 10 AISD staff members — five teachers and five aides.
While automatic federal spending cuts left Athens’ Head Start program with a significant gap in funding, Stiles said the decision was based as much on the ability to have local control over the pre-school program.
Strict federal guidelines dictate how local Head Start operations are run — controlling factors from teacher-to-student ratio and curriculum to when and how long a naptime can be held, Stiles said. By transitioning to a state-based pre-K program, Athens ISD officials will have more control to make decisions they think are best for their students.
“Head Start offered some great things,” Stiles said, “but we just felt like pre-K was a better fit for us. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing for the rest of this school year, and then over the summer we’ll begin to make the transition.”
Stiles said the transition plan includes absorbing current Head Start staffers into other positions in the district as they come available. “We may have fewer total staff positions in the end,” Stiles said, “but we don’t want anybody to have to lose a job.”
Among the biggest differences between Head Start and pre-K is how a student qualifies. Head Start admits children who meet the guidelines for free lunch under National School Lunch Program guidelines. Pre-K programs, however, require a child to meet only the reduced-cost lunch standards to qualify. That, Stiles said, could mean possibly more children accepted into the program.
Class sizes are also different between the programs, with Head Start mandating a 20-to-1 teacher-to-student ratio and pre-kindergarten allowing as much as a 22-to-1 ratio — the latter of which matches state requirements for kindergarten through third-grade classes.
Head Start program will continue through end of this school year
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The wreck occurred while buses were making scheduled runs to deliver students to their after-school destinations. Students from the two buses involved in the collision were transported to nearby East Texas Medical Center for observation and treatment of non-life threatening injuries. All of the students were in the 5 to 10-year-old range.
A number of local attorneys have collaborated on a letter to County Judge Richard Sanders and the Henderson County Commissioners concerning a decision to retain counsel in a dispute between a district court judge and the Sheriff’s Office.
A special moment
Thanks to an anonymous donor, 73 foster children from the Henderson County area will receive gifts this Christmas. A donation was made earlier this week to provide for all the remaining children on the Henderson County Child Welfare Board Angel Tree that was displayed at First State Bank of Athens. Thursday, volunteers from the welfare board, Help Center and other organizations shopped for the children at Walmart as the store opened a special check-out lane.
County Attorney reports scam
The Henderson County Attorney’s Office has received several telephone calls in the past week from individuals who are being contacted by telephone under the pretense that the callers are attempting to collect on hot-check amounts owed to Henderson County.
The callers are advising individuals that they have hot checks, have an outstanding balance with Henderson County, and a warrant has been issued for their arrest, County Attorney Clint Davis said.
Murchison’s Christmas Around the Town this weekend
Small towns thrive on community relationships, and the Murchison Volunteer Fire Department is preparing to give the city plenty to enjoy Saturday.
Murchison's Christmas Around the Town is scheduled to be a big community event this weekend, as the department is working on the final preparations.
Sales-tax allocations drop double-digit
The City of Athens experienced a double-digit drop in its sales-tax allocation in December from the previous year, based on information from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.
Athens’ check of $379.608.77 is 11.55 percent below December 2012. For the calander year-to-date, Athens is 4.30 percent above 2012 figures.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office reports that a large quantity of fireworks taken from a stand just outside of Athens have been recovered, and arrests are expected in the case.
According to Sheriff Ray Nutt, HCSO learned on Tuesday morning that Jake’s Fireworks Stand on State Highway 19 south had been burglarized.
Chandler to end septic dumping
Several repairs are needed on the lagoon at the Chandler Wastewater Treatment Plant, and as a result, the city council has voted to close the lagoon, effective Jan. 1.
The lagoon is used by several area septic companies for dumping of the sludge from their trucks. Those companies will be notified of the closing.
Brownsboro ISD adding eight courses
House Bill 5 is leading to changes in education across the state, and Brownsboro Independent School District is making sure it is ready.
While all the details of the bill have not been released, Brownsboro ISD approved adding eight courses to its high school curriculum Monday during a regular school board meeting in preparation.
Water authority sues Athens
The Athens Municipal Water Authority filed suit in 173rd District Court on Tuesday concerning bills presented to the AMWA the authority contends were the responsibility of the city.
The AMWA Board voted unanimously to take the action at its meeting Tuesday morning. The suit claims the city had wrongfully charged the AMWA with bills the municipality had been obligated to pay.
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