LCC eliminates its preschool program in Westwood
Folsom said she sent the invoice to the college when she received it in March but got a second notice from the state indicating it had not been paid. It was not until she sent the final notice to LCC via registered mail that she was told the fee would not be paid because the preschool program had been canceled.
“I don’t think I would have known the college had canceled the program if I hadn’t sent in the second fee notice,” said Folsom.
She added no one notified her personally and it was not until she sent a letter by registered mail that she received a written response.
The state-funded preschool still operates in the morning from the Westwood Community Center, however with 24 students enrolled, it is at its license capacity. Currently, 10 children are on a waiting list. A few parents are driving their children to Chester to attend preschool.
According to Homer Cissell, president of LCC, the program had to be eliminated when it came to light the structure for the Westwood preschool was not within the rules and regulations established by the California Chancellor’s Office. Folsom was actually teaching four sections of the same class because there was a different section number for each day. It would be similar to taking the same English class four times a week, he explained.
In addition, although parents registered for the class, it was their preschool children that attended.
Folsom said the afternoon preschool has operated as a parent co-op in partnership with LCC since 1990. The parent registers as a student and as such works in the classroom with the preschoolers a certain number of hours a week. Also, he or she attends one evening lecture each week.
In this way parents learn better ways of interacting with their children, about speech and actions as well as ways to help their children learn.
The preschool helps prepare children for kindergarten, which supports the federal No Child Left Behind legislation as well as the First Five Program, said Folsom.
“Studies have shown children are more prepared for learning in kindergarten and they are more likely to go on with their education when they graduate from high school if they have attended preschool,” added Folsom.
During a meeting in late September between Folsom, Karen Grosz, dean of instruction, and Cissell no resolution to the problem was found. Folsom was told the college could no longer operate the preschool as it had in years past. However Shelly Baxter, program supervisor for the Child Development Center at LCC, was brought into the discussion and will work with Folsom on possible ways to reinstate the afternoon preschool program at the Westwood Community Center.
Baxter said Folsom could seek additional state funding to offer another half-day preschool or seek private grants. Also she could choose a private pay option where parents paid a fee for the program. The college could offer one course, which would pay a portion of the expenses.
“The college course would be one hour of lecture plus a three hour lab so it is really just one day. She would need to figure out additional funding for the four days,” explained Baxter.
Folsom said she and parents of preschoolers in the Westwood community have been put in a bind. First the fee for the license for the afternoon program has not been paid and it could be terminated. She has approached the state for an extension on the renewal deadline for the license for the afternoon preschool so she will not have to go through the process of getting a new license, which would require additional money and about a year’s time.
A state-funded preschool is very restrictive and families above a certain income level do not qualify. In addition, with limited openings, Folsom must take the children who are closest to starting kindergarten because of school readiness initiatives, regardless of how long a child has been on a waiting list. Therefore, many three-year-olds are unable to obtain a slot. Since Westwood lost its family resource center there are no organized activities for this younger set, said Folsom.
The cost for a privately paid preschool program would be about $20 a day or $400 a month. Even if the college offered one class it would only cover a small portion of the expenses, said Folsom.
Currently, Folsom is gathering facts and figures to determine the exact cost of operating an afternoon preschool. Once she has this information in hand she will meet with Baxter to brainstorm solutions.
Cissell said it is Lassen College’s intent to support the Westwood preschool program if there is anyway possible.
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