Residents voice concerns as Selma Head Start must vacate current building by November

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Community voices concerns about Selma Head Start location change
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Community members showed up by the dozens to a town council meeting in Selma Tuesday night.

SELMA, N.C. (WTVD) -- Community members showed up by the dozens to a town council meeting in Selma on Tuesday night.

They are worried about the fate of the Johnston Lee Head Start Program.

The town terminated the program's lease after more than 40 years, which means it will have to find a new space by November.

"I don't think we should sit back and allow that to happen and nobody knows why," said E. Marie Watson, executive director of the program. "I don't think that's right."

Watson has been at the Selma Head Start Program for 43 years.

"Where are we going to put these kids? That's my concern. Where are we going to put them a year from now?" she said.

She sat inside Selma town council chambers along with other concerned citizens.

Mayor Byron McAllister addressed the packed house by reading a letter.

In it, he confirmed the notice that the town gave to Johnston Lee Harnett Community Action to vacate their longtime building by November 2023.

They want to move some Parks and Recreation staff to the building on West Noble Street and they intend to help Head Start find a new location.

McAllister said the program has gotten too large for the facility and there are too many people on the waiting list.

"That is 131 children that this program cannot serve because there is not enough space in the current location," he said. "This tells me we need to work harder to make sure all the other children get the same opportunity."

Shaundrelle Watson brought the issue to ABC11 on Tuesday morning.

"I'm a product of Richard B Harrison Head Start," she said. "It was very instrumental in allowing me to matriculate through undergrad, to get my master's and to go on and to be a business owner."

Shaundrelle Watson, who runs a daycare in the area, said they've looked for a new location and they cannot find anything else that's suitable.

Even if they had, it's easier said than done because a lot depends on the allotment it gets from the federal government.

"I'd rather them provide services for 51 children than not be able to provide any services to those children in need," Shaundrelle Watson said.