Citing dwindling state support, Middlesex Community College's preschool program will close at the end of the school year, ending 24 years of service. Both the program at Macdonough Elementary School and the site on campus will shutter their doors.
Kim Hogan, director of finance and administrative services, says the college has largely funded both preschools for years.
"Funding for Middlesex Community College is comprised of the state general fund block grant and tuition dollars collected from our students," she said. "The preschool is run as an auxiliary service to our students and community, and as such, the college has subsidized its cost in excess of $200,000 a year."
When it began in 1989, the program was originally offered as a service to allow students with child care needs that could not otherwise be addressed greater access to higher education. According to MxCC, in recent years relatively few students have taken advantage of this service. Fewer than 15 percent are children of MxCC students.
"This decision is in no way a reflection on the preschool, on its extremely dedicated staff, or on the importance of early education of our children," said Dr. Anna Wasescha, president of MxCC. "As important as it is to offer high quality pre-school programming for children in our community, the college must focus our reduced funds on our core mission of educating our college students."
"We recognize the difficulties presented by a decision to close our school at the end of this current school year, and to facilitate the enrollment of children in another nearby pre-school, our preschool staff members are willing and able to work with the students' parents to find a suitable preschool for their child or children for the next school year," Wasescha said.
Macdonough Principal Jon Romeo, who said the preschool there predates his tenure, says having an onsite preschool has eased the often difficult transition a preschooler feels once it's time to enter kindergarten.
"Middlesex has been a wonderful community partner and I understand the financial impact of difficult budget decisions," Romeo said. The preschool, he said, "has become a really important part of Macdonough and I'm sad to see it go."
Christine Fahey, school readiness coordinator for Middletown Public Schools, says she's disappointed at the news, "especially in light of the recent proposal by President Obama to expand access to early childhood opportunities to more low and middle income children. The college has experienced diminishing support from the state and unfortunately they lack the funding to continue the program."
The School Readiness Council is hoping to find another agency to replace these programs.
Middlesex will continue to offer the associate's degree program in early childhood education. Full-time employees working in the preschool program covered by the 2011 SEBAC concession agreement will have the opportunity to continue full-time employment at MxCC.
Macdonough's preschool was praised by Sen. Richard ahead of the Senate's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He called Macdonough one of the best neighborhood schools in the state.
This isn't the first time the MxCC has threatened to shut its doors. On Aug. 5, 2011, parents, employees and students rallied at the child care and preschool centers in Middletown, at Manchester Community College and at Tunxis in Farmington, as each faced potential closure after the revised State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement was not ratified.
On Aug. 18, employees voted for concessions and the closure was averted.
- Child Care Centers Could Close if Union Agreement Not Ratified