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Mold found in 11 Pinellas Head Start centers will delay start of school

The centers are located throughout Pinellas County, from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.

School will start at least a week later than expected for about 800 preschool students, due to mold problems found inside 11 Pinellas County Head Start centers.

Students’ return has been pushed to Jan. 13 and possibly later, according to Lutheran Services Florida, a nonprofit that manages the federally funded early learning programs in Pinellas.

Mold was found during routine checks scheduled over the holiday break while the schools were closed, according to a statement. Contractors were brought in to address the issues, the nonprofit said, and families of students were immediately notified.

The affected locations are: Clearwater Center, Friendship Center, Isay M. Gulley Center, High Point Center and Los Cominos in Clearwater; Dunedin Center; Good Samaritan Center in Pinellas Park; Rainbow Center in Largo; Jordan Park Center and Connie L. Maramaro Center in St. Petersburg; and Tarpon Springs Center.

The nonprofit sent out a statement that did not address the severity of the mold. Lutheran Services Florida spokesman Josh Talkington said some of the problems are “pretty minor" while others are more serious, but he did not provide any details.

Talkington said Head Start officials are “confident” operations at those 11 centers will be back to normal by Jan. 13, though some centers could open even later. Once all the centers are open, parents will be invited to a meeting where they can ask questions.

“If this lasts longer than one week, we will implement home-based options where possible and are seeking additional options for children to attend school,” the statement said. " We recognize and understand the inconvenience this has caused and appreciate support in ensuring the health and safety of our children, staff and visitors during this time."