UPDATE: The Arroyo Grande City Council voted to phase out low-cost child care programs run by the city's parks and rec department.
The decision will end the preschool program, located at the Mark M. Millis community center, by Fall 2023.
The before and after school program at Ocean View Elementary will continue through the YMCA.
Ainsley is a student at the preschool run by Arroyo Grande’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“The kids look forward to going to school every day,” said Niccola Nelson, Ainsley’s mother. “We’ve built such a community here. All the moms meet after preschool.”
Nelson said this preschool has been a great fit for her five-year-old daughter.
“In the beginning, I wasn't even sure if I was going to send her to preschool because there's really not a lot of affordable preschools in the city of Arroyo Grande,” Nelson said.
Now, both the low-cost preschool and free before and after-school programs run by Parks and Rec are in jeopardy.
“Currently, we have spaces for 110 preschoolers per year and at our childcare site at Ocean View Elementary, we currently have over 80 that are enrolled, plus a wait list of approximately 15 kiddos waiting to get in for childcare,” explained Sheridan Bohlken, Recreation Services Director for the City of Arroyo Grande.
The Arroyo Grande City Council has to decide whether to phase out these programs by the fall.
“Our teachers are highly qualified, but the challenge is that our department has been tasked with being 100% cost recovery, and there is a gap of $84,000 between what the revenues bring in and the expenses that are the direct costs for the program, as well as those administrative costs for hiring and maintaining staff or so,” Bohlken explained.
She said the before and after-school programs would continue through the YMCA. However, Recreation Services Supervisor Carrie Van Beveren said cutting the preschool will put parents in a bind.
“Almost all the spots are almost always taken within about a month of us doing it because everybody wants to get in and sometimes they'll even line up out front like an hour ahead of time just to make sure they get a spot,” Van Beveren said. “The demand is there, and preschools are needed around here. ”
Teachers would also be impacted by this decision.
“We would have approximately 20 teachers that would no longer be employed with the City of Arroyo Grande,” Bohlken said.
There is also a concern over the Mark M. Millis Community Center.
“Our community center is definitely in need of replacement and that's definitely a high priority, but it will cost approximately $6 million to replace this facility,” Bohlken added.
The community is hoping other options are taken into consideration, especially when it comes to the preschool which has been around since 1976.
“It’s just so special and they flourish, so we're really grateful. I hope it never gets cut,” said Dena Price, whose child went to the Parks and Rec preschool. “I think there are other ways to rally for funds, whether it's fundraising or maybe there are alternative programs. ”
Van Beveren suggested reassessing enrollment fees.
“You need to look outside of the box instead of taking this away from the children and the parents because most of us are working moms and dads who send our kids to this school, so we need it just as much as they need it,” Nelson said.
KSBY News reached out to the mayor of Arroyo Grande, mayor pro tem and City Councilmember Jim Guthrie but did not receive a response in time for this story.
The issue will be discussed during Tuesday’s city council meeting at 6 p.m. Residents can attend in person or virtually via Zoom.
To view the agenda, click here.
To read more about the Parks and Rec’s report on the two programs,click here.