With PACT moving in, preschool seeks new home

Every morning Fernanda Brant drops her son off at the YMCA-run preschool in Mountain View, where he spends the day playing outside and learning, all for free, while his mom works as a nanny.

Until this month, Brant had planned to send her second son to the Mountain View Child Development Center when he reached preschool age. But the preschool on San Pierre Way is now losing its home, and Brant and her sons are among 110 low-income Mountain View families who will not have affordable child care starting this summer.

The YMCA of the East Bay runs the 20-year-old preschool, and has been leasing the Stevenson campus month-to-month from the Mountain View Whisman School District at a cost of just over $120,000 a year. But as enrollment at Mountain View Whisman has climbed faster than expected, the district now needs the facility for its own students, and plans to move its PACT program there in August following a renovation of the campus. Child Development Center is scheduled to be out by June 30.

Brant said the decision is "unfair" for the preschool families, many of whom work in the fast food industry, she said, and rely on Child Development Center's affordable services. When it goes, they will be without a preschool, and some of the parents will have to stop working in order to care for their children.

"We have the state funding," Brant said. "We just need a place."

The city offers some spaces for low-income families in its new child care center, but there are few other subsidized options in Mountain View.

The families attended a City Council meeting late last month to request more child care space for their children, and planned to protest at this week's Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

"I am going to fight until the end," said Brant, who is helping to organize the other families. "It's better to lose a few days of work now than lose my job forever."

District property

With the elementary school district facing increasing enrollment, chief financial officer Craig Goldman said he warned the YMCA executives and preschool director last August that the district was "considering utilization of the space," he said.

Castro Elementary School has been hit particularly hard by high enrollment because it hosts neighborhood students and two choice programs, including PACT. In January, board members voted to spend $2 million to renovate the Stevenson campus for PACT -- a parent participation program which stands for "Parent, Child, Teacher" -- in hopes of alleviating overcrowding at Castro.

The district will begin construction in May on the north side of the preschool campus, "but won't touch the main building where the [preschool children are until July 1," Goldman said.

Don Lau, vice president of YMCA of the East Bay, said he knew that the district was considering taking over the building, but his staff found out about the final decision recently when searching the district's Web site. The district has not sent an official letter, he said.

The YMCA has an open facility in Hayward, but it would be hard for Mountain View families to get there. Executives at YMCA of the East Bay, which runs similar preschool programs throughout the state, have been talking with district staff and City Council members to find space for the families. Council member Ronit Bryant said she asked staffers to "see if there is anything the city can do."

"It does seem like it would be a loss to the city," Bryant said after the preschool families spoke at a council meeting.

The YMCA has recommended families go on the Centralized Eligibility List, which identifies families that qualify for free or low-cost child care. Preschools can choose to participate in the program, and pick families off the lists when they have openings.

"If families wait too long, [they might be without care," Lau said.

Taking a stand

Meanwhile, families at the Mountain View preschool have taken matters into their own hands. Parents know the decision has already been made, but say they want help from the district to find a new space. They plan to tell board members so at the district's regular meeting on Thursday, March 5.

On a recent Friday afternoon at the preschool, children napped as a group of employees, parents and former students -- now fully grown -- met to discuss the school's options. Brothers Leonardo and Fernando Munoz, 24 and 21, returned to their former preschool, both kissing director Lucia Medina on the cheek.

The brothers said they come occasionally to pick up their nieces or nephews and to visit Medina, who has been at the center since it opened 20 years ago.

"I thought when I had kids, I would bring them here also," said Fernando, who now attends San Francisco State University.

Teachers at the preschool use the Montessori principles of education focused on self-directed learning. This teaching style and the state subsidized education are both unique in Mountain View, parents and community members say.

The group meets in an office which, they say, exemplifies the unrenovated facility with its cracked tiles and chipped wood panels. Group members say they can't imagine what the new campus will look like after $2 million in renovations.

"They are going to spend so much money," Brant said. "They never did it for us. It is not fair."

"It feels like they are kicking out the lower-class people," Fernando said.


Posted by Jose, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:38 am

PACT are you happy now? Once again you get what you want at the cost of public school children.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

110 kids uprooted and probably left with unemployed parents.... a twenty year old unique preschool program that serves the most needy members of our city...children who NEED the preschool experience to be successful in elementary school....thanks a lot PACT and MVWSD-how do you sleep at night?

Posted by Frances, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Oh sheesh, why is this anger being directed at PACT? The MVWSD is does not have enough space and the Stevenson campus was the only available option right now. It doesn't matter if PACT or the DI program or a new neighborhood school went it, the simple fact is that our schools are over capacity and new space was needed somewhere (due to poor planning on the part of the school board in closing Slater, IMHO). I fail to see how the district has some obligation to provide cheap rent for a preschool, as wonderful as it sounds. Their first priority is taking care of the children already enrolled in the MVWSD.

Posted by Kristina, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Jose, Isn't PACT a public school program? Read up here...

Web Link

Posted by Nick, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

At least the Google people don't have to worry about this mess for their kids. ALL HAIL GOOGLE! GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE! Don't you just LOVE saying it!?!

Posted by Frances, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Oh come on Nick, you know people upset about this will be just as outraged about Google getting kicked out when the time comes ;)

Posted by when?, a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Excuse me Frances, but did hell freeze over? Can pigs fly? , cause Google will not be getting "kicked out" until that happens. They pretty much own Mtn. View and will do and take whatever they want. That is why we are in this mess. How convenient that Slater was chosen to close right when Google needed a site. Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy anything else including a neighborhood school and a city council that turned a blind eye. The city councils in Richmond and other nearby cities are actually doing the right thing by "helping" their local school districts-what a novel idea!

Posted by Frances, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:43 pm

When?, notice my winky. My comment was VERY tongue in cheek. Everyone knows who rules the roost around here.

Posted by Lonnie, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Well, I don't disagree with the comments so far, but I imagine Google and a few other big wigs in this area bring in some hefty tax revenue that really help Mt.View.

Posted by QM, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 4, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Send them to Google daycare at Google/Slater School.

Posted by Andy, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:46 pm

"They are going to spend so much money," Brant said. "They never did it for us. It is not fair."
You got to put your child there for free for how many years? And that was nothing? It is about time that you have to pay.

Posted by mike, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 5, 2009 at 8:31 am

Well if the facility was good enough for the preschool children for all these years, why then, when we are facing such deep budget cuts, are we allocating 2 million dollars in upgrades? (oh that's right, PACT needs a garden) And I still want to know where all the operational funds are coming from, did the district find some extra money? Operational funds were what they used to reason that we could not afford Slater-could sure use those EXTRA classrooms now, huh-you could be running Slater school(with PACT still there) for close to the same costs as Stevenson and have kept a neighborhood less disrutpted-although Google would have been more disrupted-hmmmmm-you should have put a Google site at every school to encourage their children to attend our district schools.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

The YMCA can just find another space to rent.Why can't it be that simple ,folks ? Just because it's been there for 20 years the district shouldn't be obligated to continue it. The district is overloaded and can't accommdate the needs for the PACT Program.

Posted by Tony, a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2009 at 8:42 am

Self serving programs like the Pact do not serve all the children equally. Pact what are you really teaching your kids. Shame on you parents.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:18 am

It's not the PACT program fault ! Personally, it's not a program that I would place my children in because I couldn't commit to the parent hours.The PACT program is very successful.

PACT also has children in their program that are enrolled in the state's free and reduced lunch program. So, it's not aimed just for the "uppity kids/parents".

Peninsula Daycare has a good preschool program and they accept financially assistant families. There are many other opitions for the families.

I hope the YMCA can find other alternatives for the families. It's not like they didn't know this was going to happen.

Posted by Alma, a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I'm glad that pact is leaving castro as a parent I'm sick of watching these pact children act like they are better than nonpact. Its been like a take over with these people.

Posted by beverly, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm

why cant the ymca preschool be enrolled in the preschool program that the district over;-graham- slater and castro schools? they all have preschool programs currently. its is a state funded program too. and pact students are all mountain view residents so they have
the to right to a school site in mountain view. why is everyone stressing on the school district.
when change is better for all students why cant the adults except it.

Posted by It's a Private Preschool, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:27 pm

No matter if it is subsidized or not, this is still a private preschool and the District is under NO obligation to provide space for it, when it can't even provide space for it's own students due to the closure of Slater.

Posted by Guess Who, a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 7, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I am tired of all the b.s.! dont try and take and crush the dreams and so many of these low-income families that only wish the best for their kids. Starting education at a younger age develops the children's mental capacity to learn which helps them reach a higher level of understanding when their older. Although, many low-income famlies' kids will get nowwhere in life, these couple of families deserve a chance to dream big for their children and maybe one day reach their full potential.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2009 at 10:58 pm

It is an irrefutable fact that kids that attend preschool enter elamentary school better prepared than those without any pre-K education. It is in MVWSD's best interest to help this program that benefits the most at-risk young minds. Clearly their own program needs must come first, but I hope that MVWSD will make a strong effort to assist.

Posted by Susan, a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I think the MV Voice is trying to pick a fight. Both of these groups improve Mountain View. The YMCA has many good programs other than this preschool. PACT creates a community around the school and brings benefits for all the children who attend there, not just their own kids. Each of them groups has devoted members who work for their organization and also for the community at large.

So why play them off each other? I think it's because it sells newspaper advertising space, and web banners. Shame on the MV Voice for doing it.

Posted by Karl, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:55 am

Ok, 20 percent of the adult education teachers are getting pinkslips.
As the PACT gets a new school. Whats going on!!!
Susan if the pact wanted to be part of this community there program would not exist.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Check your facts, Karl. Different districts.

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