End of an era

Children’s Center to close Aug. 27


Ben Bolstrum, Editor-In-Chief

The Schoolcraft College Children’s Center has long served as a location for children to thrive in a social environment with programs that inspire creativity and independence. After years of service to the community, the Schoolcraft Board of Trustees has decided that the Center will be closing its doors. 

Despite the end of this era for the campus, this closure will not affect the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program which gives students a career trajectory as early education teachers. This program will persist, independent of the Center closing, with 71 facilities certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and are fully taken advantage of by ECE students to gain clinical experience.

“The Schoolcraft College Board of Trustees makes the best decisions they can, keeping in mindour Mission and Vision and our Strategic Plan,” explains Chair of the Schoolcraft Board of Trustees, Joan Gebhardt. “This decision to close the Children’s Center was very difficult because it involved young children. That is why we have wrestled with it for the past several years. We did not make this decision lightly.” She goes on to emphasize that given the circumstances, she believes the decision had to be made.

The Board recognizes that attending Schoolcraft can be a difficult endeavor when tending to the needs of children and states that the time, effort and cost were all considered when proposing potential options. As a result, funds will be allocated to allow students paying for child care costs to do so through financial aid. 

“All of our actions have to play a role in enabling student success and providing a transformative learning experience, but we also have to be mindful of the barriers that are stopping students getting to us in the first place,” states Gebhardt. “It is known that child care for Schoolcraft students is a large barrier to successfully completing their programs.”

Sunsetting such an influential program is no small task. The Board states that they considered many variables such as young children enrolled in the program, families who use the Center and students who can’t afford it. As a former educator in public education with notable experience as an Early Childhood teacher and Center Director, Gebhardt says that doing anything other than putting the children and family first would be wrong. 

With agreement from the Board, they came up with a plan to ensure a smooth transition by connecting parents with other child care facilities suitable for their needs. This decision was reached with confidence due to the fact that no current students enrolled at Schoolcraft utilize the center for their children. The Board believes this is because the costs of both attending Schoolcraft and paying the fees of the Children’s Center was too much for single students. In an effort to eliminate this barrier of entry, the Board asked President of Schoolcraft, Glenn Cerny to consider giving extra financial assistance to students with children to allow them child care reimbursement if necessary. 

With this accomplished, they believed that the mission statement of the Children’s Center since its inception in the early 1970s would be upheld. The next factor to consider was aiding the Children’s Center staff with finding new jobs. Human Resources has been in contact with employees to do so and Gebhardt notes that they want to assist the staff as much as possible. Lastly, the years-long financial subsidy of Schoolcraft in regards to the Center had to be terminated. The burden that was left on the college was seen as far too expensive to allow and after doing what they could to keep the Center open on campus, they eventually shut the program down. This was seen as the only possible way to continue operating in the mission of vision and strategic plan for Schoolcraft.

The future of the land that the Children’s Center sits on is currently unclear according to Gebhardt.

“Many suggestions have been made to the board over the past 14 years that I have been a trustee, dating back to when Conway Jeffress was the president of the College. Currently we have not vetted the possibilities until we have completed step one—our children, students and staff placements.”

Concerned parents vented their disapproval of this decision during the monthly Board of Trustee meeting held on June 23. Questions over the amount of time given to adapt to the closure were brought up as well as the reported safety of the facilities recommended. Many said that they would pay more to keep the Center open if that’s what it took to keep the service available.

The Board states that this was a critical decision and believes it was not made lightly. After years of discussion and a dedicated investigation, they decided that now is the time to go through with the process using as much transparency as possible. They hope that their recent strategic planning in regards to the campus emphasizes the choice. Gebhardt calls this one of her top considerations as the Listening Chairperson of the planning process.

President Cerny also released an email addressing the closure to staff where he stated:

I want first to recognize the outstanding work of our staff at the Children’s Center. Their passion for what they do is readily apparent in making the Children’s Center a warm, safe and welcoming environment for children and their families. I want to personally thank you for your many years of dedicated service.”

What will be done to the plot of land that the Children’s Center resides on remains unclear for now, but after decades of enriching the lives of children, parents and teachers alike, many already feel the loss that this closure has caused in the community. The Board promises that they will be held accountable for one thing, however: The land will not be used until the staff, students and children are fully taken care of.

(This story has been updated as of June 28, 2021)