Parents want answers on day care

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parents with children at a day-care center on the East End are pushing for answers about money and other questions before it's too late to keep the center open."I'm really optimistic that they're going to work something out, but to save the day care, there has to be an affirmative statement made by either the Governor's Office or Kanawha County Schools that says, 'Don't pull your children out, don't find new jobs. We're working on it,' " said Shelly Gardner-Lutz, a parent of two children who attend the state Public Employees Daycare near the state Capitol."If they don't do that by the end of the week, I don't see it surviving until June like they say."A group of parents have filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain any emails exchanged between officials about the closures and for information concerning the budget, Gardner-Lutz said.Parents have also had several meetings with legislators and plan to meet again with the Governor's Office and school officials Thursday.While officials have not yet responded to the FOIA request, financial information parents have received from school officials "just doesn't add up," Gardner-Lutz said, pointing to a confusing document Kanawha County School officials gave parents that tallies things like workers' pay and utilities."That didn't really answer any of our questions," Gardner-Lutz said. Also Wednesday, a state officials said a proposed a new day-care facility at the state Capitol Complex was canceled in May 2011 over concerns about money for the project."It was decided the state would not move forward on spending revenue in designing a building when funds may not be available to construct it. Therefore, the solicitation was canceled," said Diane Holley-Brown, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration. She said there were several construction and renovation projects being pursued at the time.Earlier this month, officials announced plans to close the Public Employees Daycare and two others, the Shawnee Daycare and the Elk Center Daycare, owned by the Kanawha County Schools Community Education Program. The centers do not receive funding from the public school system, and Kanawha Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring emphasized at a school board meeting last week that the school system does not own those buildings and only helps facilitate the programs.
At that meeting, Duerring said the potential closing date, originally given as March 28, had been pushed to late June. He said negotiations were in the works, but was not specific about potential solutions -- although he did say though that tuition hikes would likely have to happen in order for the centers to survive.Cassie Means, also a Public Employees Daycare parent, posted the budget given to parents by the school system to a new Save the W.Va. Public Employees Daycare Facebook page. She called the document "troubling.""We aren't exactly sure what the program is 'administering' since it appears that pretty much everything like payroll gets done in house at the day care," Means said. "It seems to me that the day care should be able to be self-sufficient since other day cares are operating at profit without having free rent, free utilities and no maintenance responsibilities."The Facebook group, which had 36 members as of Wednesday evening, also features a list of contact information for school and government officials, urging people to reach out to "save" the centers.Gardner-Lutz, who has scrambled to find other day-care options and has been told she could be on a wait list for more than a year, praised the day care's staff -- who face losing their jobs -- and said she and other parents wouldn't be fighting for it so hard if it weren't a great program.
Renu Chakrabarty, a Public Employees Daycare parent of three, shared the same sentiments, and said Kanawha County Schools officials "seem too relaxed" about the issue."We want to be supportive of the day care. They have a very good program there. We don't want to leave and disrupt the kids and move them, but this is going to create some sort of sinking ship syndrome," Chakrabarty said. "We're all leaving because of uncertainty, and then they're just going to close it because nobody's there."Reach Mackenzie Mays at or 304-348-4814.   
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