Following their story time, Keegan Connelly leads the charge for some outdoor actiivty in the playground at the Huot Technical Center day care on Wednesday afternoon. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
BY GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — There is a strong possibility that the 30-year-old Huot Technical Center Child Development Program will be shuttering its doors at the end of this school year.
According to Program Director Colleen Bownes, she said she was told by administrators last Friday that the program would likely be eliminated at the end of the school year.
"We are on the chopping block," she said, adding "Ten years of that tax cap has influenced the education in Laconia."
It is unsure at this point in time that the tax cap is directly responsible for the development center's possible closure. In a number of school district Budget and Personnel Committee meetings, members have had a discussions about the limited amount of new money available to the district for next year under the restraints of the tax cap. The committee has targeted 12 jobs for elimination but, because of personnel reasons, it is not known if the two-full time and one part-time positions in the CDC program are included in them.
School Board member Michael Persson, who sits on the Budget and Finance Committee, said yesterday there was some discussion at a full district budget meeting on Saturday that the Perkins Grant that subsidizes the program will be unavailable for the next school year.
"This leaves an $82,000 deficit in the program," he said.
Bownes said the program serves 16 children between the ages of 3 and 5. She said many of them are the children of teachers and the teachers benefit because they are able to buy a "school year" slot instead of paying for a 12-month slot in a different day care.
She also said the Child Development Center Program is a class where students in the early childhood education program get their experience to go on to become teachers.
Built new three years ago during the Huot Technical Center renovation project, the Child Development Center has its own entrance and place for dropping off and picking up children. Bownes said the center is newly outfitted with child-sized desks and furniture, toilets, sinks and other things.
"I'm just heartbroken," she said.
Bownes said for the students it is a year-long program that can be taken in their junior and senior years. About half of the students who attend come from Laconia and about half come from the surrounding school district.
Kathleen Butler is a teacher at the Gilford School District who has had her two children attend the Child Development Center over the past four years. She also has some of her own students who have gone through the educational program offered by Bownes and the other teachers.
Both said they would be willing to look at ways the program could generate more money by raising the fees for attendance and/or raising the number of children admitted to it. Bownes said there is a three-year waiting list.
Both also said they will attend the March 15 School Board meeting where the final decision will be made. The School Board meets at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Street School.
For further information, see https://www.facebook.com/Save-Huot-Child-Development-Center-1004131429657636/?fref=nf
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