The Charlottesville community is rallying behind the oldest preschool in state. Barrett Early Learning Center announced it would have to close next month, but a plan may soon be in the works to save it.
Last week the school, which has been in Charlottesville for nearly 80 years, announced it was closing its doors for good due to financial reasons. But now the community is working to keep it open.
"After having to run a lot of debt here lately we've decided that the most responsible thing was to go ahead and close," said Carlos Armengol, president of the Barrett Early Learning Center Board of Directors.
A list of 14 issues hone in on the school's money troubles. The center is having problems with state and social services reimbursements. It also has to hire a new director, form a new board, create a fundraising plan to balance the books, and pay staff and put in new air conditioning units.
Add everything up and the school needs thousands of dollars to stay afloat, but the community is coming together to reverse this decision.
"This center has been in operation for 78 years. It's always served a disadvantaged population here in the community," Armengol said.
The school serves families who qualify for childcare assistance so it cannot raise tuition for extra revenue.
The Building Goodness Foundation has worked closely with the school for years and must put its latest project – new fire escapes at the center – on hold.
"We've become quite attached to the center and we appreciate what the center does for educational opportunities for young children so we were saddened," said Kelly Eplee, director of the Building Goodness Foundation.
But regardless of its troubles, many agree on the most important reason to save Barrett.
"The kids here may not have any other place to go. This is really the only place they can go for affordable preschool services and I'd hate to see that happen to these kids," Armengol said.
There will be a meeting on Monday at 6:15 p.m., at the center for those interested in helping. The board hopes it will generate some ideas to help save the school. Until that happens, Barrett is still scheduled to close on August 16.
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