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Teachers planning next step for school closure this June

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 22:00:59-05

While some can't wait for summer, the last day of school means something different for teachers and parents at an early learning child center in Palm Beach Gardens.

Palm Beach State College reiterated their decision to close the Center for Early Learning for good on Tuesday night, citing money constraints and budget cuts.

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.

For the first time since news of the closing, teachers are now opening about the shock they're feeling.

"We're losing our home, our second home away from home," said teacher Catherine Stefano. "We're all trying not to cry because we have the children and our energy is released to them, so we're trying to stay positive."

Stephano has worked at the school for more than 16 years.

"They're taking away the building. They're just not taking away our passion," she said.

Despite parental outcry from over 80 families and hope that the college might reconsider, the college's Board of Trustees stood by their decision during a meeting on Tuesday night.

"Very disappointed. We've been working really hard to make the community aware of what's going on, looking for potential donors and kind of just got a runaround as to why they want to close the center," said Christina Filis, one of the parents who rallied to keep the center open.

The college says it's moving forward with construction to turn the school into administrative offices.

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.

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.

"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 are considering a suggestion by Palm Beach State College to start a new facility off-campus.

"The school would completely cut ties. We're looking into the possibility that they would let us take all of the supplies," said Filis.

But finding a new building won't be easy.

"You have to find the building that's up to code for children and families, and health department, regulations," said Stephano.

While parents try to regroup to see what next steps they can take, Stephano hopes to continue working with children.

"I want to stay in this field and I want to continue to give the best i know how to give. I'm just, I'm still processing," she said.

Parents also tried asking for an extension beyond June to give them time to consider moving the learning center off campus, but the college stood by its decision to close the school in June.