“Negotiations between the Board Of Ed and the owner of the ECC building [have] ended.”
School Superintendent Pedro Garrido opened up his update on the school district’s pre-kindergarten program with that statement at the April 6h Board Of Education (BOE) meeting.
For over a decade, the school district rented the John Adase Early Childhood Center (ECC) – on the corner of West Webster Avenue and Laurel Avenue – to provide the school district’s pre-kindergarten. Students with an Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP, who require special education services are eligible for free pre-kindergarten. There were also tuition-based students who were at the ECC and helped lessen the cost of the program.
This February, after negotiations with John Adase, Jr. – the owner of the property – broke down, the district proposed to provide pre-k classes in trailers, which they called modular units. Parents of tuition-based and special education students from the program asked questions and expressed their serious concerns about the decision. A subsequent meeting on February 17th at the ECC had parents asking more questions and giving input. At a March 30th meeting at the center, the latest update was provided to the ECC parents.
Mr. Garrido, on April 6th, stated that after listening to parents’ concerns and the additional cost of the modular units to maintain the program at its current standard, the board decided not to pursue the trailers. There was also the situation of having pre-kindergarten children around high school students and in units where the high school basketball courts were located.
“We did come up with a plan,” stated Mr. Garrido, “We have found space in each of our elementary schools . . . There will be three classes, the same as we have now. There will be a pre-[k] disabled class. We know the building they will be attending will be the Sherman Elementary building. The reason for that is it is handicapped accessible. It’s the only elementary building with an elevator. The other two buildings will hold the integrated classes which means tuition-based students with special education students – the same that we have now. Some of the students will be attending half-day and some will be full-day. We will not lose [any] tuition-student whatsoever.”
The district confirmed that the new proposed pre-k classrooms met state requirements for such programs, including square footage. Two of the three classes will be in existing kindergarten classes with a bathroom in each classroom and there will be a playground outside. Those kindergarten classes will move into computer rooms. To address the loss of the computer labs, the curriculum will be amended to have computer teachers work with homeroom teachers to include more technology into classroom instruction content. Mr. Garrido explained, “Therefore, we would not need a computer room so a classroom will be placed in the computer rooms in each of the buildings.”
The superintendent stated that meetings with ECC parents will continue to go over logistics such as arrival times, dismissal times, lunch time, a before-school program, and an after-school program. There will be tours of the classrooms, orientations, and a review of daily classroom routines. Mr. Garrido concluded, “The good news is the programs will not change. We will be able to afford all our pre-school students the same program that they have now. That’s something that was very important to us as we were looking for space.”
Robert Domanski – an ECC parent who was present at meetings since February and raised concerns about the trailer proposal – approached the board during the second public comment portion of the meeting. He remarked, “We’re very happy with the plan. We’re thrilled. We think it’s so much better than what the modular units would have been. As my wife and I were talking . . . we’re guessing the only time people come here and want to speak at this public portion [is] to complain about something. So, instead, I am here tonight purely for the reason to sincerely say thank you. Everyone who worked on this, really, we think you did a terrific job. You’re really going to make a difference in some of these kids’ lives. We really do think it’s going to have a major impact. We believe so. So again, thank you. Thank you for all your hard work on this.”
A previous resolution to have the state review the temporary accommodations will no longer be necessary since the program will be held on school property. The contract with the ECC building will end in June of this year and the new proposal will begin in September. It is not known if this temporary accommodation will become permanent.
The school district has paid over $1.4 million since 2006 in rent to use the Early Childhood Center.