LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education will consider a proposal that would relinquish the school district’s $14.9 million federal Head Start grant Tuesday.

The decision comes after Jefferson County Public Schools was informed by the Office of Head Start “that just a single additional substantiated staff incident could jeopardize” its grant status, according to an agenda item for Tuesday’s board meeting.

The district will continue to operate its early childhood program and serve students eligible for Head Start through an estimated $8 million from its general fund if the proposal is approved, JCPS Communications Director Allison Martin told WDRB News on Wednesday. JCPS receives $14.9 million in Head Start grant funds each year as part of a five-year agreement reached in 2016.

In a letter to JCPS early childhood staff Wednesday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the proposal, if passed, would lead to more 3- and 4-year-old students being served, a better learning environment, more oversight and an increased focus on kindergarten readiness.

“We want to reassure you and our community that there will be no change in service for current students and no layoffs of staff,” Pollio wrote. “The district stands ready to dedicate its own resources to improve the level of service that will strengthen educational experiences and outcomes for all students.”

The district’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs, which enroll more than 3,000 students, came under scrutiny last year after the U.S. Administration for Children and Families released a report in August detailing 23 incidents of student abuse, student neglect and staffers failing to report incidents for up to two weeks.

The school board passed a corrective action plan afterward, firing seven teachers and assistants in the Head Start program.

Of eight schools previously visited by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, the Kentucky Department of Education found deficiencies at only two. Those weren’t nearly as severe as deficiencies detailed in the federal report, with an unlatched gate and young trees growing in a playground that needed to be removed at Kerrick Elementary and interactions between adults and children that did not promote student growth at Unseld Learning Center the only issues cited by KDE.

Still, interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis referenced the federal Head Start report among his reasons to recommend state management for JCPS following a 14-month audit.

A takeover at JCPS is needed “to ensure systems and corrective actions are maintained to prevent future violations of federal law and to ensure that all children in the care of JCPS are educated in a safe and nurturing environment,” Lewis wrote in his April 30 recommendation for state management.

Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.