It appears that the Santa Monica-Malibu School District (SMMUSD) will take over the full-day, full-year preschool programs at John Adams Child Development Center and at Washington West starting July 1st.

With the school board’s approval, district staff has sent a letter notifying the California Department of Education that the district intends to accept a General Child Care and Development (CCTR) Contract that is being relinquished by Easter Seals of Southern California.

The General Childcare Program, which was earlier operated by the school district’s Child Development Services, was relinquished by the district in 2002 ‘because it wasn’t cost-effective,’ said Judy Abdo, director of child development for the district.

‘We couldn’t continue to pay for the program with the amount of money the state was providing [through a grant],’ Abdo said. ‘So, because the community in general wanted the program to continue, several of us sat down and formed a collaborative between SMC [Santa Monica College], Easter Seals and the district.’

Easter Seals – a charitable organization that provides services for individuals with disabilities or special needs and their families, and also operates some child development services – agreed to operate and staff the preschool, the district offered its space at no cost, and Santa Monica College agreed to put in additional funds (approximately $100,000) so the preschool program could continue.

‘The district gave up the [grant] funds that the state paid the district to run the program and those funds then went to Easter Seals to continue the operation,’ Abdo said. The state provides ‘somewhat more than $600,000’ a year, she said.

And that’s how the program has worked – until now.

Since last year, the district has been trying to resume operation of the program as ‘funds would no longer be an issue,’ Abdo said. ‘For now and the future, as far as we know forever, it would be cost-neutral.’

And Easter Seals of Southern California has agreed to relinquish the grant effective June 30th.

‘The state has sent a letter to the district asking whether we have an intention to accept the grant that was offered,’ said deputy superintendent Tim Walker, and the district does.

The grant is about $650,000 and if all goes as planned, the district will be able to pick it up on July 1st, Walker said.

The district will oversee the administration and delivery of services for the program as well as staffing.

Some people said they were unhappy with the high turnover in staffing with Easter Seals, which left them concerned.

‘With inconsistent staffing, the program can be affected and therefore the delivery of quality services becomes a question,’ said Walker, who believes the district will be able to offer a more consistent program.

‘I just think the district has the ability to hire and employ a high caliber of staff that will provide more consistent programming,’ he said.

‘We anticipate the continued support of Santa Monica College as a collaborative participant in this program, and Easter Seals will no longer be part of the collaborative.’

Current employees of the preschool program, hired through Easter Seals, will no longer be needed, but have been invited to apply for jobs with the school district, Abdo said.

Abdo pointed out that the district has ‘different qualifications’ than Easter Seals for its staff, and with the program being resumed by the school district, staff will be employed by the district.

For the teaching positions, only teachers with bachelor’s degrees will be hired, said Abdo.

If all goes as planned, the preschool program will be back in the hands of the district on July 1st.

‘It’s good news for the community,’ said Walker.

Currently, about 84 children are enrolled in the preschool program that operates at Washington West, where the district’s Child Development Services office is, and John Adams Child Development Center (on the John Adams Middle School campus).

The program will remain at these two locations when resumed by the district and will still be available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

‘It’s year-round, including winter, spring and summer break, so it’s a program aimed specifically to serve working parents,’ Abdo said

Currently, the district does not offer any full-day childcare for preschoolers, and there’s a great need in the community for it, Abdo said.

When the state grant is received, school district staff will go back to the school board for the final approval of the budget and to hire staff for the program, said Walker.

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