Letter: Declining enrollment forced cancellation
I would like to explain the decision to cancel the Creative Learning Preschool program sponsored by the Gloucester Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department (PR&T). This was a very tough decision; one that was reviewed for several years.
Our mission is to provide programs, services and facilities to the community at the same time as acting as stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. We strive to meet community needs while using tax dollars in an efficient manner.
Over the last several years, enrollment has declined to the point that expenses exceeded revenue. One class has 11 children and the other has only six.
Tuition was increased in 2011 and a registration fee initiated to help generate funds. Revenue still did not cover expenses. We offered the program in 2012 and 2013 in hopes that new children would register. Enrollment has not increased and at one point this year, there were two instructors for five students.
In order to cover expenses, the rates would have had to be doubled and 15 students (the max number allowed by the state for our building) would be needed in both of the classes.
Declining enrollment can be attributed to other preschool opportunities—public schools programs, Head Start and churches. In addition, many families may need all-day programs available through private businesses.
Unfortunately the program is no longer in great demand and it had to be cancelled. When looking at the finances along with the low number of students, it was the best decision to make. Instructors told parents that the class would not be offered next fall and a letter was sent to each family in January.
A question was raised about why we did not use fundraising to sustain the program. We are involved in a number of fundraisers and are aware of the demand required to manage them. With the small number of people enrolled, the competition of other fundraisers and the need to conduct an annual campaign, I did not believe that fundraising was a viable option.
Comments have been made in the community that preschool was being closed so that the space could be used for other activities. That is absolutely false and there were no plans for additional programs in that building.
Contrary to a comment in a previous letter to the editor, I do not believe I have done a “great disservice” to the community. There are other options available, including our preschool summer camps, and I had to consider the fiscal impact of this program within our total budget. I stand behind the decision and hope that this letter will help people to have a better understanding of the situation.
We are proud of the preschool program, the professionalism of our staff and the number of years Creative Learning was in existence. We thank our current and former teachers for their years of dedicated service. If readers have any additional questions or concerns, I encourage them to contact me.
Carol Steele, Director
Gloucester Parks, Recreation and Tourism