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Longtime preschool may close
After 12 years, Miss Lori may have to close her Orland preschool due to declining enrollment brought about by the recession.
Lori Phipps has operated Kids First Learning Center on Seventh Street quite successfully, she said, up until this summer.
For the first time, Phipps said she does not have a waiting list of students wanting to enroll in her full-time preschool for the fall.
She only has one child enrolled for September, she said, with a second child possibly going to sign up.
Things were fine in January and February, Phipps explained, but by April enrollment started to drop in her 12-student preschool.
Two children pulled out in the spring because their parents lost their jobs, Phipps said, with one family moving to Alaska.
Then, other children began having to stay at home with their mothers, she said, because their parents were out of work.
This week, Phipps had only two students, and they will move on to kindergarten this month.
"Their moms are worried about me," she said, which is why they kept their daughters in the school — even though they graduated from preschool in June.
Phipps has run the center primarily through word-of-mouth, and normally has 15 to 20 students on her waiting list, she said.
"I could float by with five students," she said.
Fewer than that, and Phipps may have to close and put her equipment in storage.
She said she might have to look for a job as a waitress — despite having worked in the child care and preschool field for 25 years.
Director positions for preschools are difficult to find these days, Phipps said, and it is hard to give up the school she has owned and nurtured for so long.
"I never thought I'd be in this situation," she said. "I thought if I quit, it would be a choice I'd make (for retirement)."
Enrollment applications are ready, literature on the school is being passed around to churches and other locations - but no parents are calling or walking through the door, Phipps said.
She charges $18.75 per day for the full-day program, which runs about $375 a month per child, yet Phipps said most preschools charge $25 a day for the same service.
However, with incomes lost or cut back, Phipps understands why parents cannot send their children to her — even though it is good to get them prepared for kindergarten.
But without money, people just can't do it, she said.
Phipps runs her center Monday through Friday and provides arts and crafts, music, games, science and math lessons, snacks and pre-kindergarten readiness programs, she said, for children 2 to 5 years old.
"I chose working in a small town because it has families who care about their kids and who want their kids to learn," Phipps said, even though incomes here are not has high as those in bigger cities.
Phipps is not the only preschool provider to see student numbers decline.
Carolyn Eden of J.C.'s Learn and Play Center in Orland said Tuesday she does not have a waiting list either.
"My understanding in talking with other daycare providers is that they are not filling like they used to," Eden said.
Her center is filled for the fall, Eden said, because the "people we serve tend to afford private payments."
But she is concerned the recession could impact enrollment in the future, she said.
Some of her clients also use subsidized childcare through Glenn County because they could not afford it otherwise, Eden said.
Nobody could be reached for comment at the Glenn County childcare referral program on Tuesday. Glenn County Head Start representatives were not available, either.
At the same time, Eden said her preschool program runs part-time in the mornings for three-hour time frames. This cuts the cost to $16 a session, and it allows for scheduling flexibilty.
Eden runs daycare in the afternoons, she said, which also provides additional opportunities for clients.
She said she is sorry to hear of Phipps' situation since the two women often refer clients to each other.
"I know Lori has worked hard," Eden said.
Contact Rick Longley at 934-6800 or email@example.com.