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Coney day care centers in jeopardy

Two long-time Coney Island Day Care centers serving the area’s large working-class population have received an ultimatum from the city – bring up enrollment or risk closing. The city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) called the Coney Island Community Day Care Center, 2960 W. 27th Street, and Roberta Bright Child Care, 3001W. 37th Street, on the carpet last month for not meeting their contractual obligations. “They were put on notice if they don’t get their act together they can be closed or consolidated, but they are giving them ample time to bring up their registration where it’s supposed to be,” said City Councilmember Domenic Recchia. Recchia said he is assisting both centers in doing more outreach in the community for increased enrollment, with mixed results thus far. Coney Island Community Day Care Center Director Rosalyn Jones said her contract calls for her to have 80 children enrolled, and she had just over 40 when she met with ACS officials last month. “They’ve given us time and so far I’ve registered twenty-some children and now we’re over 60 kids,” said Jones. “We’ve been working with ACS and community agencies, putting out fliers to increase our enrollment and will have an open house February 24, where parents can come in and we fill out an application on site for them,” she added. Coney Island Community Day Care was founded as a local non-profit in 1974, and Jones, a lifelong Coney Island resident, has been working there since 1976. Part of the problem has been some ongoing construction in the three-building Sea Park complex in which the day care center is located, making it hard for some parents to realize the center is still open, she said. The facility has a license for children between the ages of 2.6 and 6 years of age, and Jones said they are looking to lower the age to two years for a larger enrollment. Nonetheless, Jones feels ACS has been working with the facility and they shouldn’t have a problem getting enrollment up to 90 percent, which would be acceptable. “ACS allows you to be at 115 percent and we usually run between 100 and 110 percent,” she said. The Roberta Bright Child Care Center, which serves children between the ages of 2.6 and 6, is contracted to provide for 60 children and currently has 46 enrolled, according to Director Pooman Paintal. The center, which is nearly 40 years old, is scenically located by the boardwalk opposite Sea Gate, and features large classrooms with attached bathrooms. Each classroom also has a separate library. “The goal of the program is to help children develop their highest potential as well as literacy skills. We help children socially, physically, intellectually, culturally, creatively and emotionally through developmentally appropriate and age appropriate activities,” said Paintal. “We are different from other centers because we are the only NAEYC (National Association for Education of Young Children) accredited center in Coney Island,” she added. That said, the center has been having some trouble increasing its enrollment and Recchia puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Manhattan-based YWCA, which has the contract. “This is a perfect example of an outside organization coming into our community and running a program down. They’ve had the contract for a number of years. What are they doing?” said Recchia. Recchia said he has been trying for a month to have a meeting with YWCA officials to coordinate a plan for outreach to strengthen enrollment and only recently heard back from them via phone. “What have they done? Did they have meetings, posted fliers, gone to schools? I’m scared and I don’t feel they are scared. Why does a councilman feel he has to go out and register kids for them?” he said. But YWCA Vice President of Early Education Margaret Doherty said the Roberta Bright Child Care Center is in no danger of closing. “We are restructuring the program to open a toddler classroom,” said Doherty, explaining the center is seeking to lower their age limit to take in children who are two-years old. “We have a waiting list of 20 2-year-olds on the list and we’re waiting for the health department to okay it, and it will happen in the next few weeks,” she said. Doherty said the YWCA will also open a special education component at the facility in cooperation with United Cerebral Palsy. The center has now also extended their hours and is open from 7:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., she said. Finally, Doherty said the YWCA met with ACS officials on January 16 and had their targeted capacity changed to 45 children. The issue of a nose-diving enrollment has resulted in ACS putting 14 day care centers borough-wide on notice. The centers generally operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week. Parents pay a sliding scale of anywhere from zero to about $80 a week depending on their income, with the rest being subsidized. ACS spokesperson Sheila Stainback said there are no plans to close any of the centers, but they must meet or come close to their contractual agreements. “We will continue to work with them to see if there’s another way to fulfill their obligation,” said Stainback. “There’s a great need for subsidized child care in New York City and we will meet with them to provide child care for those looking for it,” she added.

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