West county school district cuts ties with Analy Nursery School
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.
After more than five decades of partnership, the West Sonoma County High School District is cutting administrative ties with Analy Nursery School in Sebastopol.
The district, which includes El Molino and Analy High schools as well as a continuation and community day school campus, in recent years scaled back its financial commitment to the parent co-operative nursery program, but on Jan. 16 the district's trustees voted to end its administrative oversight of the program.
The district currently provides classroom space, some maintenance services and administrative and human resources services. District officials are open to continuing to provide free space, as long as there are opportunities for high school students to participate at the school.
"If it's going to be on our campus, we want kids learning," said Superintendent Keller McDonald.
"First and foremost, we are a high school district," Trustee Kellie Noe said. "The reality of where we sit and with budgets going back and everything happening to our schools, it's a hard decision."
Analy Nursery School serves about 28 families, said Christina Bush, one of two teacher-directors who run the program.
Bush said the decision doesn't come as a surprise, considering the current budgetary climate, but it does threaten the viability of the school, which already relies heavily on parent participation to operate.
"We feel like it's a great partnership but in tough financial times, it's hard to justify supporting the preschool and then cutting back on the (high school district's) bus program," she said. "It's difficult to run a cooperative preschool without some sort of support of funding and administration and all of that."
As recently as five years ago, the high school district spent about $50,000 to help run the preschool program. With changes in the agreement, in the 2011-2012 school year the district provided only administrative services and free access to an aging portable classroom, McDonald said.
That classroom needs major upgrades and was rendered unusable for K-12 students by inspectors, although not for preschoolers and adults.
"The concept is great. I can't say enough good things about it," school board President Diane Landry said of the cooperative program. "But under the auspices of the high school district, with the condition the building is in, it is just not feasible for us."
Parents are trying to determine if another agency or partner can act as an administrator for the 54-year-old program while still allowing parents to put in classroom hours, contribute to maintenance and take parenting classes, said parent and nursery school board member Katie Evenbeck.
But uncertainty looms over whether the program will operate next year or beyond.
"We are not just talking about funding here. We are talking about location, we are talking about teachers. It's January," she said. "It is a lot."
Bush said the co-operative model has ardent followers, but the same economic pressures that pushed the school district away from the partnership also hurts families who might be unable to commit the time necessary to make it viable.
"My fear is that this school has been running over 50 years and has this great history and worked out a lot of the kinks," she said. "If this falls apart, that will be a huge undertaking to start this up from scratch."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.
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