Picher Head Start moved to new home

Tulsa World

by: OMER GILLHAM World Staff Writer & SHEILA STOGSDILL NewsOK.com
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
3/24/2009 3:51:18 AM

QUAPAW — Gov. Brad Henry is applauding Head Start officials for taking swift action to remove a preschool program from the Tar Creek Superfund site in Ottawa County.

Picher Head Start was relocated to Quapaw during spring break and moved into a ready-made building without much disruption in services, a school official said.

The program opened Monday in a building that had previously housed the Head Start program in Quapaw, Head Start Coordinator Jane Hatfield said.

"Everything went real well," she said.

Picher Head Start had been in Picher, a former mining town in the Tar Creek Superfund site, a 40-square-mile area polluted by decades of lead and zinc mining.

Henry and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., urged Head Start officials to move the preschool program after the Tulsa World reported that young children were being allowed to move into Picher, which has numerous homes and businesses undermined by deteriorating lead mines.

Henry said, "Given the dangers of lead exposure and subsidence in the area, this was the only responsible course of action.

"I appreciate the cooperation of the Picher Head Start program and the quick action it took to relocate its facility," he added.

"Although it may have caused some temporary disruption, moving the program was clearly in the best interest of the children and their families."

Picher is part of a $60 million federal buyout of homes, businesses and public-use facilities within the Superfund site.

Quapaw is a few miles east of Picher.

Head Start officials wanted to wait until the end of the school year to move the program to avoid a potential lapse in services.

However, officials moved up the relocation at the urging of Henry and Inhofe.

By 8:30 a.m. Monday, 17 students already were settled into their morning routine of eating breakfast.

The brightly colored classroom, filled with books and crayons, was a hit with the children, ages 3 and 4.

Hatfield has been a teacher for 39 years.

She said her staff and volunteers worked for two weeks to move everything from the Picher Head Start to their new home so that classes would open without interruption.

The building, which once held the Quapaw Head Start, has not been used for two years. Before the children arrived, the room received fresh paint, new carpet, and an extended playground with a new bicycle track, Hatfield said.

"I am just happy the parents chose to stick with me," she said. "Some have to drive 15 miles."