The protest came after Mountain View Whisman School District trustees decided to end a 20-year lease with the Mountain View Child Development Center in order to make room for its own parent participation program. The free preschool program, operated by YMCA of the East Bay, serves about 100 mostly local low-income families, many of whom staged the demonstration in an attempt to keep their school.
On two separate occasions, some families also appealed to the City Council to ask for new classrooms for their program. Without the free preschool, parents told council members, they would possibly be forced to quit their jobs to care for their children.
"We don't have a choice; we need your help," Victor Reyes, father of a 4-year-old in the preschool, told the council at its March 10 meeting.
In response to the outcry, district administrators met last week with city officials and YMCA executives. Administrators now say they may be able to open classes to accommodate 48 of the 96 preschool students on their own campuses.
District administrators say they are still in the planning process, but would subcontract the state-funded program from the YMCA and offer openings at two locations. The district currently has some space at Castro, Graham, Slater and Theuerkauf schools, according to chief financial officer Craig Goldman, and will either expand preexisting preschool programs or start new ones using the curriculum from the Child Development Center.
"There are a lot of steps that need to be taken," said Kim Castro, the city's youth resource manager, who sat in on the closed-door meeting last Friday.
Even though the district would only be able to provide space for half of the students in the current program, Goldman said most of the Mountain View residents would be accommodated. Other students could attend a YMCA-run facility in Hayward.
Goldman said the elementary district is still looking at the feasibility of taking over the program and offering the same long hours and low costs. The district is also talking to the state about funding. YMCA, school and city officials will meet again at the end of the month.
"Nothing at all is locked in," Goldman said. "It may not fly."
Preschool parents and teachers said they are still waiting for the school district to complete its plans, and hope the new program will offer space for all the low-income families currently enrolled.
"I feel badly for parents," said Lucia Elena Medina, who has been the center's director since it opened two decades ago. "It's one thing to promise and another to open a center."
Medina said she worries about the teachers, students and parents in her program — including many parents she taught when they were in the program. She said she hopes the district and city will be able to find a solution before the program's eviction date on June 30.
"It's sad to end like this," she said.