Head Start officials explain transportation changes

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Magistrates addressed concerns raised by parents

By Stephen Lega

Local Head Start officials addressed concerns about a new transportation policy with Marion County Fiscal Court at the court’s April 18 meeting.
Pam Smith, the Marion County Head Start director, and Lynne Robey, the director of Central Kentucky Community Action, spoke about the new transportation policy that will take effect during the 2013-14 academic year. Community Action oversees the Head Start program.
This year, Community Action has had enough funding to pick up students to bring them to Head Start, but budget cuts will affect their ability to continue doing so.
Smith explained that the Head Start budget was cut by $171,000 due to the recent federal budget sequestration, and more cuts are expected in October.
"We will be eliminating transportation for the most part," she told the court.
The magistrates recently received a letter signed "Marion County Head Start Parents" with concerns about the new transportation policies. The parents seemed concerned that Head Start students in the county were being treated differently than students in Lebanon.
Smith and Robey both said this was the first time they had heard any complaints about the new policy. They said parents were told at registration that they will need to provide their own transportation to the nearest Head Start center starting in the fall.
They also pointed out that parents are on the committee that helped decide the new policy, which means the letter was not likely from every Head Start parent.
Because more children are enrolled in the Lebanon program than that center can handle, some of those children will be shuttled to Bradfordsville or Loretto centers, where more spots are available.
"I'm concerned about the kids that are outside Loretto, Raywick, Bradfordsville ... They are being cut out of the picture," Magistrate Roger "Cotton" Smothers said.
Smith said parents in Lebanon will be required to bring their children to the Lebanon Head Start center. Once they are there, some children will be taken to other centers to reduce overcrowding at the Lebanon center. Smith and Robey also said the children from Lebanon will be using unfilled spots not taking spots from children in other areas.
They also pointed out that the school district can provide transportation for students who are eligible for its preschool program, although the school system cannot transport students to Head Start.
Smith said they would work with the school system to help any child with a dire need for some kind of preschool.

In other business:
- The fiscal court approved a proclamation declaring April 24 as Lebanon Middle School to Watch Day.
Lebanon Middle was recently named one of 13 Schools to Watch in Kentucky. The Schools to Watch program is part of an initiative developed and guided by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.
- The court approved a payment of $27,730.57 to the Marion County Board of Education for transportation costs for non-public school students. This was less than the $35,000 the court had budgeted for that expenses.
- The court approved the proposed 2013-14 budget for the Marion County Detention Center. The total budget for the detention center is projected to be $4.251 million.
- The court approved its annual $2,500 allocation for the Bradfordsville youth sports league.