Nearly a hundred protesters converged on the Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District last Thursday, March 5, waving signs and shouting "Save our school" in an effort to find a new home for the Child Development Center, an affordable preschool for low-income families.
The families began demonstrating about an hour before the district's regular board meeting was scheduled to begin, marching, chanting and demanding that trustees help find a new space for the preschool. After the meeting began, four speakers made their case to the board.
Trustees responded by saying they were already moving in that direction, having planned a meeting with city officials and YMCA executives to address the issue.
For 21 years the Mountain View Child Development Center, a state-funded program run by YMCA of the East Bay, has been providing low-cost or free preschool and child care services from the district-owned Stevenson campus on San Pierre Way. In January, trustees voted to end the district's lease with YMCA and move the district's parent participation program, PACT, onto the campus. The preschool must be out of the Stevenson campus by June 30.
The move left some low-income families fearing they would be without affordable child care, prompting them to go to the board for help. They immediately began organizing the demonstration, and parents, siblings and former students visited the school earlier this week to make signs and plan the event.
"This is the beginning of the children's education," parent Victor Reyes told board members during a public comments session at Thursday's meeting. "No one knows, maybe they are the future presidents, doctors, lawyers. Please listen to us."
"We need your help," parent and protest organizer Fernanda Brant told trustees. "We cannot afford to lose this school."
Craig Goldman, the district's chief financial officer, said administrators not only were working with city officials and YMCA representatives, but were looking into the idea of making the preschool a district program. Mountain View Whisman currently has preschools on some of its school sites, including Castro Elementary.
"We are going to explore alternative facilities," Goldman said. "We want to be open to different possibilities."
Goldman said the joint meeting between the district, city and YMCA is scheduled for Friday, March 13 and will be a closed meeting.