State officials announced Thursday they want the Head Start program in Picher moved immediately.
Gov. Brad Henry and Sen. Jim Inhofe asked Head Start Director Doug Spillman to transfer the children currently enrolled in the Picher facility to an area outside the Tar Creek Superfund site.
In a letter addressed to Spillman, top officials requested immediate attention with regard to the facility.
“We understand there may be some concerns in moving the students and faculty to a new facility in the middle of a school year, however, we feel the health and safety of the students far outweighs the inconvenience of finding and moving to a new location,” the letter states. “We therefore would request that you relocate the program to a new facility immediately.”
In 2005, Oklahoma spent $3 million moving 52 families with children under the age of six out of Picher due to high levels of lead contamination.
Picher Head Start is located adjacent to the Picher Housing Authority, where a 40 square-mile.
area was subjected to decades of lead and zinc mining that left mountains of waste.
The site is on the Environmental Protection Agency's list for polluted areas.
Despite an ongoing federal buyout, the authority's executive director, John Sparkman, has allowed families with young children to move to public housing in Tar Creek.
Henry's office said that Spillman had proposed to move the Head Start program to Quapaw beginning the next school year. However, that means the children would remain within the Superfund site until the end of May.
Spillman said that moving the program now could result in the families being without services for 30 days, but Henry and Inhofe said that keeping the students in the toxic Superfund site until the end of the school year is not advisable.
Henry and Inhofe said they feel that the risk of the site warrants the immediate shutdown of this facility and a temporary loss of classroom instruction would be a small cost to ensure the safety of the children.