Competition, budget restraints blamed for center’s end | RecordCourier.com

Competition, budget restraints blamed for center’s end

by Jo Rafferty

Jo Daugherty sat at a long table in the Alpine County Children’s Center helping the children create glitter glue pictures, talking about how the center she has worked at for 24 years will soon be closing.

In a grandmotherly voice, Daugherty, 61, reminded the kids to be polite.

“May I please use the purple, may I use the green please,” she said. “Use all those nice words that you learned since you’ve been here.”

It was Thursday afternoon and the parents of the 11 children who were doing their artwork were beginning to arrive to pick up their charges.

Rian Snyder, 8, of Markleevillage said she has been going to the center since she was 18 months old. Then the center had had an infant program, Daugherty said.

Rian said she wasn’t sure where she will go when the center closes on Jan. 31.

“I’m going to go to tutoring if my grandma’s here,” she said. “If my grandma’s not here I’m going to JoJo’s.

Rian was referring to Daugherty, who the children call JoJo.

Daugherty, director of the center, said losing some of the county’s funding and the opening of an after-school program at Diamond Valley School two years ago are a couple of reasons why she thinks the center is closing. She also said the opening of The Alpine County Office of Education Early Learning Center in Woodfords in January may have done them some harm. The Early Learning Center has an infant-toddler program, that the center no longer provides.

The lowered enrollment, especially the loss of full-time kids, was damaging to Alpine County Children’s Center. A teacher has to be there all day, even if the students aren’t, she said. The small, low brown building currently employs two full-time teachers (including Daugherty), one part-time teacher and office person and one part-time office person.

“We’ve known for the last couple of years that we’ve been losing money every year,” said Daugherty. “It just doesn’t generate enough money if (the children) don’t come all the time. If we had more full-time kids, it would have helped us.”

Daugherty said she thinks the center’s closing will be a hardship to the 14-16 school age and five or six preschoolers who are enrolled at the center. She said the center is the only child care center in the area that is open until 6 p.m. and the children there are fed breakfast, lunch and dinner at no charge.

The center is funded through the federal latch key and sliding scale grants.

Janis Doyal of Woodfords was picking up her four grandchildren who have been attending the center for more than a year.

Doyal said she’ll miss the convenience. Deanna Doyal, 9, said she’ll miss playing with Legos. Teddy Doyal, 6, said she’ll miss her friends, naming off at least five of them. Shania Doyal, 3, was too shy to answer, but her older brother Jack, 8, said, “I’m going to miss storing stuff in the locker.”

“I think it’s kind of a sad thing,” said Galit Greenwood, who was picking up her daughter. “I have one child here now, but all of my children have gone here in the past. For so many years it was a great thing for the community.”

Jef Newby, 10, said he is in his second year at the school. He isn’t sure where he is going to go after the center closes, since he is moving to Gardnerville.

“He is definitely my boy. We don’t have many here,” said Daugherty, motioning toward the room full of girls.

Daugherty said she might see if she can do volunteer work at Diamond Valley School, or she might just take a break.

She has been working at the center ever since she got her elementary school teaching credential. She has been a foster parent to at least 20 children for almost 20 years, including two foster daughters who are leaving her home right before Christmas.

“It depends,” she said. “I just may rest for awhile.”

— Jo Rafferty can be reached at jrafferty@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.