Barrett Early Learning Center to Close after 78 years
Barrett Early Learning Center
People across Charlottesville are preparing to say goodbye to Virginia's longest-running childcare facility. After 78 years, the Barrett Early Learning Center is closing its doors for good.
Thursday the school announced its plans to close. After playing such a large role in the city for so many years, the closing will affect a lot of people.
"It's going to impact at least 40 families," said former member of the school's board Melvin Carter Jr.
Those families will have to find a new preschool for their kids – and the staff will have to say goodbye – when the preschool closes its doors August 16.
"I was somewhat shocked but at the same time somewhat understood what was going on. Barrett for a long time has been operating on a shoestring budget," Carter said.
That budget put the school in financial trouble in 2011 after reimbursement problems through the Virginia Department of Social Services subsidy program. The school serves families who qualify for childcare assistance so it cannot raise tuition for extra revenue.
The school released a statement Thursday, saying in part: "It is with a heavy heart that we make this decision. We want to thank families for sharing your children with us."
Barrett has been a staple in Charlottesville for years and organizations have been trying to keep it afloat.
The Building Goodness Foundation is involved with the school and was in the process of making it a structurally safer place for its students. But with its financial woes, the school has no other option but to close its doors for good.
"There's no one to blame during this unless you blame the state for cash flow problems and a lot of red tape. It's no one that you can blame for this outside the state," Carter said.
Charlottesville's mayor is calling for action to help save Barrett. Council plans to discuss this issue at its next meeting on August 1.
Barrett Early Learning Center Press Release
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. July 18, 2013—After 78 years, the Barrett Early Learning Center will close operations at the close of business on August 16th at 6:00 p.m. Founded in 1935 and formerly known as the Janie Porter Barrett Nursery, it is one of the oldest early childhood programs in Virginia.
The Barrett Early Learning Center provides early childhood education for children ages two to five years of age with about 30 children enrolled at any time. The center primarily serves children from the Charlottesville community who qualify for childcare assistance through the Virginia Department of Social Services Child Care Subsidy Program (VADSS) and also for working families.
In 2011, the VADSS changed the way they reimbursed childcare centers for services. The state's unpredictable and cumbersome VAECC reimbursement swipe card system, combined with a decrease in philanthropic contributions, has made it difficult for the center to meet its financial obligations.
Carlos Armengol, board of directors president says, "The system was intended to make keeping attendance easier, but it has been the exact opposite. For example, when a new child starts, parents do not have a swipe card so a manual form has to be submitted. Reimbursements from manual forms can be delayed by months which has consistently created financial hardship for the center."
Barrett has been dedicated to keeping tuition rates affordable for Charlottesville's working families. Many families do not qualify for assistance, but still can't afford average childcare rates in the Charlottesville area. On average, the daily rate Barrett charges is $33 per child per day, which is the rate VADSS reimburses centers for childcare.
"Because many of our families rely on childcare assistance, we do not have the option to raise rates to generate more revenue," says Armengol.
Philanthropic contributions for the center have decreased, which has also made it difficult for the center to keep pace with routine maintenance of an aging facility and providing resources beyond normal operations.
"On behalf of the board, it is with a heavy heart that we make this decision. We want to thank families for sharing your children with us; we thank the staff for their many years of service and dedication to educating and preparing children for kindergarten, and we thank our community donors, alumni and supporters who have given so much to our center over the years."
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