They learned of the decision in early February and many were dismayed that the popular program was being cut.
Parent Sheri Chamberlain, whose son is enrolled at the Cottage Lake site, notes the unique features of the program, including certified teachers and para-educators familiar with the school district guidelines and curriculum, small class sizes, periodic integration with Contained Learning Center classrooms, emphasis on outdoor play in each session and curbside drop-off and pick-up, not to mention competitive tuition rates.
She adds, “The teachers are remarkable and our son has thrived in the program. The community is done a disservice in the elimination of the program and current families who intended to re-enroll have especially been done a disservice that the closure was not timely enough for other plans to be made. I’m already finding most equivalent nearby offerings have filled, as their registration processes began weeks ago.”
She urged the district to reconsider and save the program, as she had planned for her son to continue in the program next year and also anticipated her two youngest children participating in the coming years.
According to Becky Anderson, assistant superintendent of special programs for Northshore, the program has had a long history of providing quality preschool services to the community. It was to be discontinued because the district is in need of classroom space.
In regards to Cottage Lake, she says: “Our numbers of students in our special education preschool programs continue to grow and our center at Sorenson Early Childhood Center is no longer able to handle the number of students. The school actually had to give up its library this year to accommodate the numbers. Housing another special education preschool classroom at Cottage Lake will enable services to be centralized, fostering collaboration and support, resulting in better utilization of resources and staff, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.”
Anderson notes that Northshore currently serves over 2,500 special education students, which is about 12.4 percent of the district’s total enrollment.
There has been a 40 percent increase in this population; thus, the demand for classroom space is at a premium.
As for Frank Love, Anderson explains that the classroom is needed to accommodate K-6 students in order to balance out enrollments for north end elementary schools that are over capacity.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” she says, “and we had to make it quickly because we didn’t want to leave parents in a lurch with finding another preschool for their children. Private programs in the area fill up fast — we knew this — and wanted parents to be able to have time to make other arrangements.”
And now for the good news: Northshore has decided to keep the tuition-based program, though it means relocating the classroom sites to Hollywood Hill Elementary and Arrowhead Elementary.
“We investigated other options and we were able to find suitable space in order to keep the program,” says Anderson. “We are very grateful to Principal Scott Beebe at Hollywood Hill and Principal Jesse Harrison at Arrowhead for their support in making this a reality.”
She adds, “We informed the teachers at both sites and they were happy to hear the news. They told us they would like to continue teaching and will relocate to the new sites.”
The preschool can accommodate a total of 80 students, or 40 children at each site.
The same tuition scale will be used ($200 a month for the two-day-a-week program and $300 per month for the three-day-a-week structure) and transportation will continue to be the responsibility of the parents as it has been in years past.
Anderson is pleased that arrangements could be made to house the well-respected program at other sites, however, she cautions, “There is no guarantee that this will always be the case in the future. There are a lot of variables that are not in our control which affect our decisions.”
She acknowledges that the timing of the closure announcement was problematic for parents and adds, “If we are faced with this situation again, we will do our best to be more timely.
“We realize that parents need as much notice as possible in order to make the necessary arrangements for their children.”