Parents alarmed by closure rumor
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Aug 23, 2013 | 2855 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Guadalupe Ramirez, parent of a pre-schooler at the Head Start McKinley Village Child Development Center, talks to a parents on Thursday, Aug. 15, about rumors the center was closing. Ramirez asked parents to sign a support sheet to keep the center open. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
Guadalupe Ramirez, parent of a pre-schooler at the Head Start McKinley Village Child Development Center, talks to a parents on Thursday, Aug. 15, about rumors the center was closing. Ramirez asked parents to sign a support sheet to keep the center open. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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Guadalupe Ramirez talks with Gloryanna Rhodes, Head State Child Development Council Delegate Director for San Joaquin County, about rumors regarding the closing of Head Start McKinley Village Child Development Center at 2105 N. Tracy Blvd. The parent meeting was held outside the facility and was attended by approximately 40 parents and children. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
Guadalupe Ramirez talks with Gloryanna Rhodes, Head State Child Development Council Delegate Director for San Joaquin County, about rumors regarding the closing of Head Start McKinley Village Child Development Center at 2105 N. Tracy Blvd. The parent meeting was held outside the facility and was attended by approximately 40 parents and children. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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Parents of McKinley Village Child Development Center have been fighting to keep the facility open in the wake of a closure rumor.

On Aug. 15, about 50 parents and children gathered outside the Tracy Boulevard center to voice their fears.

Guadalupe Ramirez and Mariam Ebrahimi, both parents with children in the program, told the gathering that they heard the center was in jeopardy and a new facility was opening on Chrisman Road.

"It’s not fair," Ebrahimi said. "We just want answers."

McKinley, at 2105 Tracy Blvd., operates all-day programs funded by both state and federal money for Head Start and Early Head Start children in the Tracy area.

On Aug. 15, parents took their concerns to Gloryanna Rhodes, Head Start Child Development Council delegate director. She told them there were no immediate plans to close McKinley.

"We’re not closing down," she said. "The rumor out of here is not a reality."

Rhodes said there was a government stipulation two years ago that McKinley had to separate its state and federal programs. She said that forced county officials to find a second Tracy site for the federally funded programs.

The result was rental space at 23950 S. Chrisman Road, Rhodes said, which is still being remodeled. She said organizers don’t anticipate opening the site for at least six months.

She said losing the federal money splits the funding pots at McKinley. To try to alleviate problems, she said leaders are working to lower their $10,000-a-month rent at McKinley or find a way to get out of the lease with 18 months remaining and relocate the center.

"We have to operate (McKinley) with less money," Rhodes said. "We’ve got to do business differently."

She said that if county officials decided to close McKinley, they would have 90 days to notify the state officials and local parents. Even then, she said, the doors would remain open for a year or two.

"I hoped I calmed them down," Rhodes said. "I gave them the answers that I have."

Although they were told McKinley wasn’t closing, Ramirez said parents are still worried.

"We want to see evidence," she said. "I have a daughter in the preschool program now, and for me to lose child care would put me out of work."

Tom Bardwell, whose two daughters attend McKinley said he too was worried.

"They’ve been here almost a year now and it’s real good," he said. "They’ve got good staff, they’ve got good everything. I want to keep them here."

Tomara Schreiner said her four foster children have thrived at McKinley, particularly the two enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. She said it was a "valuable program" that was "incredible."

"My little brother goes here," said Kai Schreiner, 9, referring to his 3-year-old brother, Kaleo. "I think its bad for him; he’s going to lose his school."

McKinley parents took their concerns to the county Delegate Policy Committee on Monday, Aug. 19, and spoke to them during public comment.

The committee’s acting chairman, Jesus Garcia, said the committee did listen to their concerns and said they could be successful in keeping the center open if they remain united as a parents group.

"I’m glad they did bring it to our board," he said. "I think they can keep it open."

"The future for them, they have to stay together as parents," he said. "Keep advocating for their facility. The more they keep bringing their facility up and say they want to keep it in their community — Head Start has to listen to them."

Garcia said he hopes to place the parents’ issues on the committee’s agenda for their next meeting on Sept. 16 for discussion by the committee.

Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo, 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

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