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Onslow County Head Start will no longer accept three-year-olds - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Onslow County Head Start will no longer accept three-year-olds

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -

A local school district is cutting back on the number of students they take in for one of their pre-K programs.

Because of budget cuts, the Onslow County school system says it will no longer accept three-year-olds for their Head Start program.

"We lost approximately 5% of our budget, and we decided the easiest thing for us to do was to eliminate 30 students," said Dr. Kay Gresham of Onslow County Schools. Gresham is the executive director of Head Start in Onslow County.

Those 30 slots are for students who haven't been accepted yet, namely, three-year-olds from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

"We're very sorry we had to lose those particular students because it was very nice for our three-year-olds that we were able to know their families for two years and be able to really have good relationships with the families," said Gresham.

Gresham says the program will still serve four-year-olds, but by no longer accepting three-year-olds, they'll save money on everything from food and transportation to field trips.

"Our title 1 budget has been cut, the Head Start budget has been cut, the Exceptional Children federal funds has been cut, so every federal program has been cut based on the sequestration," Gresham said.

The federal government has also cut funding from Onslow County's Early Head Start program, for children younger than three years old.

"The 5.27% percent reduction ends up being $41,000 of our overall funding," said Ann Marie Raymond, spokeswoman for Onslow County Partnership for Children, the private nonprofit that runs the Early Head Start program in Onslow County.

But Raymond says the Early Head Start program won't have to cut back on services. They're making up for the lost money with state funding from Smart Start.

"We're really happy we were able to find a source that was able to fill that gap," said Raymond.

As for the Head Start program, there's only a small chance three-year-olds might be accepted in the spring, said Gresham.

The Onslow County school district also considered cutting Head Start teacher positions, but decided not to because they felt class sizes were already too big.

Head Start schools in Craven County also lost funding. Last month 9 On Your Side reported the Charles Taylor Center in New Bern is closing in August because of sequestration.

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