With the rough economy compounding the problem of reduced enrollment, All Souls Episcopal Church’s Mill Pond Preschool and Stony Brook University Preschool, both located in Stony Brook, have recently closed their doors.
All Souls' Mill Pond Preschool closed its doors mid-way through the school year in December. It initally opened nearly 10 years ago. Church representatives said it was a combination of reduced enrollment and reduced funding which led to the closure.
"With the downturn of the economy, it was hard to put a kid in preschool," said Dan Kerr, Membership Chairman of All Souls Church. "There was not enough children to pay for [the preschool]."
Victoria Almash of the All Souls Bishop Committee and preschool said it had the enrollment capacity of 44 students, but in its last few months the school was down to only six children, two teachers and one director.
It was a two-year evolution of reduced enrollment and reduced funding,” she said. “The church really struggled in the last year of the school to keep it open.”
At University Preschool, which closed its doors in June after 30 years, head teacher Irene Gische said enrollment had been declining steadily.
"We're very sorry to see the school go," she said. "We had a following. Parents with three or four children in the school."
She attributed that decline to a number of reasons, most notably the rough economy and universal pre-kindergarten in nearby school districts. And she found that parents were enrolling fewer and fewer two- and three-year-olds in the program.
"The pool of students begins to dwindle when you take those reasons into consideration," said Gische, the head teacher for the past 22 years. "There was no one factor. I guess you could call it a perfect storm of factors."
Other local preschools appear to be safe for now. Representatives of Imagination Preschool, , , at Three Village Church and each said they are not in jeopardy of closing.
Even though they are not closing their doors, Eileen Hummel, owner of Imagination Preschool, believes that surrounding school districts' universal pre-kindergarten programs could soon effect them.
“Pre-K enrollment is down because of universal pre-K,” she said. “Some districts have it. New York City has it for all kids who turn 4. Three Village does not have it but surrounding districts do.”
Those nearby districts with universal pre-K include Sachem, Port Jefferson, and Middle Country.
The Middle Country school district has two universal pre-K centers within their district. Bicycle Patch Pre-K/K Center in Selden and Unity Drive Pre-K/K Center in Centereach define Universal Pre-K as an early childhood initiative which "provides four-year-old children access, at no charge, to comprehensive early childhood education experiences that promote their social, emotional, creative, expressive, physical, cognitive, language, literacy, and cultural development.”