By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — The School Department will close a day-care program and disperse a before- and after-school program this summer after deciding required renovations to the building that houses the program are too expensive.
The program is housed at the Pleasant Valley School, a roughly 100-year-old building at 180 Pleasant Valley St., that school officials said needs expensive upgrades. Superintendent Judith Scannell said to the School Committee and in a letter to parents that the day care for 3- and 4-year-olds, which is available five days a week, will end in August and the before- and after-school program for school-age students will move to the four grammar schools.
“We can’t afford it,” Scannell said of the day-care program and repairs. In comments to the School Committee, she said the decision to close the day care program was “based solely on the age and condition of the building.”
This year, Pleasant Valley School has 38 3- and 4-year-olds in the program. Scannell said 26 of those kids will be old enough to start kindergarten next year and will not be affected by the closure. Parents of the remaining dozen kids received a list of private day cares in the city to use next year, and Scannell said the prices are close to what the School Department charges for its service.
Work that would have been required to keep a day care at the Pleasant Valley School included upgrading the electrical and plumbing systems, installation of a sprinkler system, making the building handicap accessible, doing spot repairs on the foundation and scraping and reapplying paint. Last year, the School Department shuttered a 30-year-old mobile classroom trailer that served the building and program because of its condition.
Students in the before- and after-school program can continue in the program, but will remain at their neighborhood grammar school instead of being bused to and from Pleasant Valley School. Scannell said parents had asked for this change in the past. Teachers for the K-8 before- and after-school program will be solicited from each grammar school.
Scannell sent a letter to parents on Wednesday explaining the change and outlining before- and after-school rates, which range from $50 to $160 per month for the before school program depending on grade level and number of days per week, and $120 to $320 per month for the after-school program. Parents have the option of enrolling children in either or both.
School business administrator Glenn Fratto said the district would save about $60,000 from the busing contract, though nearly all of that portion of the expense was paid by day care fees.
Scannell said the building will be converted into a centralized storage facility for office supplies and other goods, which will free up much needed space currently used for storage in each school building.
The two certified teachers in the day care program will be assigned teaching positions in one of the grammar schools in the 2013-14 school year, and the five program assistants will be reassigned by the end of school on June 26. No one was laid off because of the change, Scannell said.
The superintendent had considered using the Central School off Lawrence Street, which formerly housed the School Department administrative offices and now hosts a ninth-grade campus while the high school is being renovated, as an early child care center that included the day care and all kindergarten classes.
But she said renovations that would be needed to use the building for young children would run at least $1.5 million. The city already spent about $2.5 million renovating the Central School for ninth-graders, money that came out of the $98 million high school project.
No decision has been made on what that building will be used for when the high school is completed in 2014.
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