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Preschool may stay open

Education: State may transfer Child & Family Center’s day care to third party

Posted: May 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 31, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Preschoolers Abigail Perez, left, and Madeline Chavez play in the playground at Kids Corner Preschool at The Child & Family Center in Santa Clarita on Wednesday as they wait for their parents to pick them up.

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The day Kids Corner Preschool staff announced the school was closing, parents were sad and crying, angry and vocal — all of them suddenly worried about their future.

They were fearful because they believed no other preschool in the Santa Clarita Valley offers the quality, versatility, specialization and long hours featured at the Santa Clarita Valley Child & Family Center on Centre Pointe Parkway.

“There was an 8-year-old boy who had gone here when he was younger, and when he was told the preschool was closing, he kept saying, ‘For good? Forever?’ He couldn’t believe it,” said center CEO Darrell Paulk. “It was heartbreaking.”

Then came the news early this past week that the state is in talks with a third party to take over operations at Kids Corner Preschool, a state-funded day care that provides early childhood education, Paulk said.

News of the preschool’s closing hit parents hard.

“Oh my God, they shocked me,” said Rosaria, mother of a 4-year-old daughter enrolled in the preschool. “When my husband saw me that day, he said ‘I have bad news.’ I thought, oh my God, something happened at home. Then he said they’re closing the school.

“It really affected me emotionally,” she said. “I felt so bad for the teachers. They are so good. We don’t have babysitters here. We have teachers, and they are amazing.

“I heard other parents were frustrated; some parents were angry. You could see their anger,” Rosaria said. “This was something which was not under their control.”

For Rosaria, the preschool offers what other local ones do not: long hours.

Kids Corner Preschool opens at 6 a.m. and stays open for at least 12 hours.

“The thing that makes our preschool unique, which you will not find elsewhere, is that we’re all-day,” said center spokeswoman Lois Bauccio. “The decision to close was a sad decision, a serious and difficult decision to make.”

Many of the Kids Corner preschoolers come from families in which Spanish is the first language and both parents work long hours but still earn an income so low that they remain eligible for the family center’s low-income criteria.

One woman, who asked not to be identified, moved to the Santa Clarita Valley from Mexico shortly after having obtained her green card.

“There was a lot of sadness that day,” she said through an interpreter. “One of the teachers invited all the parents in and told them about the closing. Some of them were crying.

“Then other parents were worried about was going to happen with the children,” she said. “Losing the program means losing a lot.

“When my son came here, he was very shy. Now, he’s becoming a person who talks more. My son understands more English, and now he tries to speak English.”

Parents and staff are keeping their fingers crossed that the state negotiations with the contractor remain on track.

The Child & Family Center has provided mental health and behavioral services to children, adults and their families since 1976.

Sixty-eight children attend the day care this year; about half of those will attend kindergarten next year.

The remaining 33 students would be served by the third party, Paulk said.

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