New Haven parents are scrambling to find new day cares because the city plans to close the New Haven Daycare Program at the end of next month.
Parents were notified on Wednesday, according to city officials. When Mayor Toni Harp met with angry parents last night, she said the situation could have been handled better.
"The process of notifying the parents could have been handled in a better way so there wasn't a lot of confusion and chaos about the slots,” Harp said.
City officials said funding for the programs comes from a state Child Daycare Grant, which ends June 30. The city will continue to receive the grant funding in the next fiscal year, but officials will be working with community partners to provide daycare.
“The Board of Education really can't afford those programs anymore. It's easier and more cost-effective to have a community-based provider provide those programs,” Harp said.
The New Haven Daycare program includes a site at Immanuel Baptist Church as well as infant/toddler rooms at the Early Childhood Learning Center on Blake Street.
Of the 48 pre-k students at Immanuel Baptist, 29 will be placed in partner pre-k programs. Of the 32 children at the Early Childhood Learning Center, 16 will need to be placed in early childhood programs. The rest would be transitioning out of the program to enter pre-k.
City officials also said the Dwight Early Childhood Learning Center will be closing, which would affect about 50 children.
Vanessa Miller-Dicks said she found out about the daycare closing when she was dropping her son, Leonard, off at the Dwight Early Childhood Center in New Haven.
“No pre-warning, no nothing. What am I supposed to do?” she asked.
Parents say they were given alternative daycares to use, but they got the run around when they called.
“No one had anything available at all. There was a waiting list for every center,” Miller-Dicks said.
Tomeka Robinson also said the centers said they have no openings and families will be put on a waiting list.
“What's happening is that the slots are still available,” Harp said. “The placements are available for the children. It just won't be run by New Haven Public Schools.”
School district officials said parents need to go through the New Haven Public School District to get a daycare spot.
“Our spaces, the Board of Ed spaces, are available for our parents, and those are on hold. That's why it's so important for the parents to go through our people,” Damaris Rau, the executive director of schools, said.
School officials said they understands that parents are upset with the change, but it will save the district nearly half a million dollars and provide better options for infants and toddlers served in the programs.
However, parents don't want to take their children out of their current daycares.
"It's not really a daycare. These children love each other. The staff (members) love each other. This is family-oriented," said Andrea Hutchinson, who's searching for a new site for Javione after his day care center on Blake Street is closing. “Education in this area does not come first.”
Robree Newton said her 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Makaylee, is going to cry when she learns about the closing.
“She's not going to want to go anywhere else,” Newton said. "We've been blatantly lied to, so we don't know what's going to happen at this point.”
Parents said they will have another meeting in a week with the mayor.
The daycare closings will also affect 28 daycare workers, who are being laid off. Five of the 28 workers are retiring and the others are being offered severance packages.