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Parents upset over PBSC decision to close Early Learning Center

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-16 20:34:56-05

UPDATE:

Dozens of parents are upset after finally learning that their child's pre-school will be closing this June.

About 20 teachers will also be looking for a new job.

Palm Beach State College runs the Center for Early Learning on their Palm Beach Gardens campus. The center educates children from 12 months to 5 years of age and parents usually have to get on a waiting list due to its' popularity.

Despite parental outcry and hope that the college might reconsider, the college's Board of Trustees stood by their decision during a meeting on Tuesday night.

The center opened in 2001 for children of college staff and students but since expanded to the public and is now mostly made up of outside families 

The college said financial constraints are too great and with budget cuts this year and they can no longer afford to run the center.

"We're in Tallahassee begging for buildings, begging for finances and trying not to get cut again this year," said Wendy Link, a PBSC board of trustee, during Tuesday's meeting.

Parents say the college told them it wasn't just about money but also about space needed to put new administrative offices. During the meeting, the board of trustees said the college needed to expand and could not find the space, in addition to the already existing financial constraints to continue running a center that was no longer serving just the children of PBSC staff.

Three parents spent nearly 20 minutes presenting solutions for the college to consider in an effort to keep the center open, including fundraising opportunities, marketing proposals and raising tuition for the center so that parents can keep their children enrolled.

"They didn't budge," said Christina Filis, one of the parents who spoke to the board directly during the meeting. "It's very disappointing because the only option that they gave us was, 'you can take your facility and you can go find a new location.'"  

Filis said she and the other parents will regroup and discuss the college's suggestion to start a new facility off-campus but she added that they don't have the money or the resources to do it on their own. She said she hopes another parent or someone can step forward with some solutions.

"These are children, these are nursing students, these are early education majors who utilize this facility and it's going to be used for administrative offices. It's frustrating," she said.

The Center for Early Learning will close officially this June.

PREVIOUS STORY:

We have new information on a local school's fight to stay open.

Parents reacted angrily when the early learning center in Palm Beach Gardens announced in November it would close.

But after our first story on the issue aired in November, the school offered hope it might stay open.

Palm Beach State College runs the Center for Early Learning (CEL) and the college made plans to close the campus this June due to budget cuts. That announcement was made suddenly in November when a letter was sent to parents and teachers.

RELATED: Parents, teachers shocked over sudden school closing in Palm Beach Gardens

Because of a massive parental outcry, the college's Board of Trustees agreed to reconsider and are expected to make a decision on Tuesday night.

Sally Loder feels the fate of her children's school lies in the hands of the parents.

“We need to keep it alive, let us keep going," she told WPTV on Tuesday afternoon.

Loder has had one young child go through CEL's program and another child is currently enrolled. Following plans to close the school, she joined with other parents to rally for the school to remain open. 

“You can’t put any price on a consistent learning environment," she said. “They helped raise my children and they helped instill this level of learning that I might not have been able to do."
 
At least 20 teachers could lose their jobs and as a teacher herself, Loder said she is devastated.

“These people have been there for 10, 15 years. Where do they go? What do they do now?" she said.

One of the center’s teachers spoke to WPTV anonymously and said the initial announcement shocked her so much, she thought it was a joke.

"Losing this building and this position and this opportunity, I can't look at the children in the eyes, I can't look at the parents. I'm lost. I'm broken," she said.

The center opened in 2001 for children of college staff and students but since expanded to the public. It's now mostly made up of outside families and the school says it could no longer afford to run it.

But in December, parents said the college told them it wasn't just about money but about space needed to put new administrative offices.

“They proposed a problem, we proposed solutions. And they need to listen to us," said Loder.

Either way, parents are hopeful for some good news.

“All we need now is to be given the opportunity that this is going to work," said Loder.

Several parents will be speaking out at Tuesday's meeting with plans to present fundraising solutions and even a business and marketing plan to help the keep the center open.