Shelly Schultz

Picher Head Start will be relocated to Quapaw during Spring Break, according to the program’s Director Doug Spillman.

The transition came after federal lawmakers strongly recommended the preschool program in Picher be closed due to potential health issues.

Spillman said plans were in the making for the program to be relocated at the close of this school year to avoid interruption of services to the children and their families.

However, last week Gov. Brad Henry and Sen. Jim Inhofe released a joint statement to Head Start officials putting pressure on them to make the move quickly.

The preschool is situated on the Tar Creek Superfund site. Children in that area have tested high for dangerous levels of lead. The site is also subject to collapse caused by years of lead and zinc mining.

Henry and Inhofe told Head Start officials that safety and health concerns for children in the area had to be a priority.

“The blood tests of the children enrolled in Head Start are fine,” said Spillman. “There was none with high blood-lead levels. We test the children at the beginning of each school year.”

The program, which has been in operation since 1971, currently has 17 children enrolled at its Picher location.