Head Start programs in Knox County will end two weeks early to due to budget cuts from sequestration.
Joyce Farmer, Director of Head Start, said the five locations within Knox County are faced with cutting 5% of the area's budget, which is around $420,000. Farmer said the cuts have to be made by the end of December.
"We're trying not to panic. We're trying to be reasonable," said Farmer. "We decided to make it as minimally disruptive as we could for this current population."
Farmer said there are 998 students enrolled in Knox County Head Start programs this year, but those numbers could decrease next year due to the cuts.
"What happens in 2014, we'll see what happens in Washington," said Farmer. "Since there is so little good quality care for infants and toddlers, I would anticipate that any cuts we would make in the numbers would be in our preschool population, because they have other services available."
Farmer said despite the cuts, Head Start is hopeful it will continue to provide quality education for local lower-income families.
"Confidence and success begins very early. And so it's important to them now, and makes their lives better. It makes them readier for school," said Farmer.
Head Start sent out letters notifying parents the program will end for the year on May 10th.
"For every day she loses, she's going to lose knowledge," said Mary Brenam, the great-grandmother of a 5-year-old who attends Head Start. "Even losing a week will hurt her. A day will hurt her."
Brenam said the budget cuts on Head Start programs are unfair, and put low-income children at a disadvantage when it comes to education.
"These kids that are low income now, they've got enough challenges," said Brenam. "[The] more income you have, you've got the advantage. Your kids can get educated. I mean you've got a choice. These kids don't have a choice."
Farmer said staff has met, and will continue to work on plans for the budget cuts. She said closing two weeks early will only make a small dent in the $420,000 it must cut by December.
"Yes, it's hard times. But we've been around a long time and we've been through hard times before. And in fact now, we're getting ready to recruit for next fall," said Farmer.
The registration day is still planned for April 20th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the LT Ross Head Start Center on Western Avenue.
Once the budget plan is solidified, Farmer said it will go to the regional office in Atlanta for approval.