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School for pre-K students closing due to federal budget cuts

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NEW BERN, N.C. -

Some local pre-K students said their final goodbyes to their school.

Tuesday was the last day of school at the Charles Taylor Center in New Bern. It's one of 7 Head Start schools in Craven, Carteret, Pamlico, and Jones counties. Head Start is a federal program that educates pre-school age children from low-income families.

The center is closing because the organization that runs it, Coastal Community Action, says it doesn't have any money to keep it open.

CCA says sequestration budget cuts forced the nonprofit to close the school, which would save them about $260,000 a year.

Parents say they'll miss the close relationship they and their children had with teachers.

"The fact that they're never going to open it back up is really heart breaking. Because there's a lot of people and parents how really think a lot of this school," said Sharvon Chapman, whose three year old son went to Charles Taylor.

Eleven staff members who work at the school will all be re-assigned to other Head Start schools, said Suzanne Gifford, program director at CCA.

The 50 or 60 students who go to Charles Taylor will be transferred to one of two other Head Start schools in the area, the Duffy Field Center and the F.R. Danyus Center, she said.

Those who belong to the early Head Start program, namely, children three years old and younger, will be educated at home rather than at the center by early Head Start instructors.

A total of 18 Head Start slots at Charles Taylor will be eliminated through attrition, said Gifford.

"We looked at reducing some of our contracts and some of our classrooms, but closing Charles Taylor was the most viable," said Charlotte Neely with Coastal Community Action.

CCA says there will now be six head start schools in Craven, Carteret, Jones, and Pamlico counties come September.

CCA must move all their belongings, including furniture, toys, and books, out of the Charles Taylor Center by the end of September.

The New Bern Housing Authority, which owns the building, is deciding what to do with the center. The agency is assessing whether to relocate its central office from Front Street to the Charles Taylor Center, where there is less risk of flooding, said housing authority director Julian Marsh.

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