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San Diego Unified To Close Four Child Development Centers In June

A woman wears a shirt that reads,

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: A woman wears a shirt that reads, "There is no class without classified," outside of a San Diego Unified School Board meeting where trustees heard a proposal to cut classified jobs, Feb. 27, 2018.

San Diego Unified will close four child development centers in June: Kennedy CDC in Lincoln Park, Brooklyn CDC in Golden Hill, Bayview CDC in Pacific Beach and Montezuma CDC in the College Area. The facilities provide preschool programs, predominantly for working parents who are eligible for state-subsidized child care.

The district says it’s closing the centers due to poor enrollment and because consolidating elsewhere will let it open more preschool slots. But that hasn’t eased concerns for parents, who have already had to run the early education gauntlet — the waiting lists, high costs and confusing patchwork of programs — to enroll their children in the closing centers.

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“It’s definitely going to put a strain on (Aniza),” said Monica Gonzalez, whose gauntlet was harder than most. With no kids of her own and a full-time job, Gonzalez gained custody of her 3-year-old niece when her brother became incarcerated.

She called finding Kennedy CDC “a blessing.”

“She loves the teacher and she loves all the friends that she’s met, so having to find another place is definitely going to be another bump in the road for her,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she isn’t sure where she’ll enroll Aniza in June, though she’s crossing her fingers for a program that’s open during the summer like Kennedy.

“The families have all been contacted directly and provided with options in their neighborhoods or very near their neighborhoods,” said Acacia Thede, executive director of human resources for the district.

Four parents who spoke with KPBS said they hadn’t yet been notified of alternatives. But a district memo lays out multiple options for parents at the closing centers, including one less than a mile from each. It’s unclear how many spots will be made available at the alternative sites.

It’s also unclear how many child development employees will remain in the district after the reorganization.

Budget documents detail at least 135 positions that would be eliminated in child development. But Thede said many facing layoffs would fill vacant positions or be reclassified into lower positions within child development.

She said the level of service would not change for students.

Rob Wilber, a union representative for child development assistants, said he’s worried the reorganization will result in a significant loss of income for staff. Child development assistants make between $2,157 and $2,964 a month if they work full time. Many positions are less than 8 hours a day, 10 months a year.

“Child development assistants are some of the lowest paid employees in the district,” he said. “Most of my paraeducators have to work two and three jobs just to get by.”

Tanisha Cooksey would argue the assistants at Kennedy should get a bonus, not a pay cut. She’s sent four of her children there and was looking forward to sending her two-year-old. She credits the early education they received at Kennedy with getting the eldest to college and the others to the top of their classes.

“We believe in villages and Kennedy has always been our village,” Cooksey said. “Part of our extended family.”

The San Diego Unified board will weigh the layoffs Tuesday, along with dozens of others. The district must close a $34 million budget gap.

The district says it’s closing the centers — Kennedy CDC in Lincoln Park, Brooklyn CDC in Golden Hill, Bayview CDC in Pacific Beach and Montezuma CDC in the College Area — due to poor enrollment and because consolidating elsewhere will allow the district open more preschool slots.

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