Like just about everything else, Albany’s city-run Maple Lawn Preschool has been closed since March 13 by the coronavirus shutdown. But it could reopen in the fall if the school board agrees.
Under an agreement Parks and Recreation Director Kim Lyddane worked out with the Greater Albany Public Schools administration, the city parks department will continue to operate Maple Lawn but GAPS will pay all of the preschool’s expenses for three years.
The city council voted 4-2 on Wednesday to accept the agreement. Councilmen Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes voted against it. They had expected that after this school year, the city would completely end its role in the preschool business.
A year ago, the parks department proposed to close Maple Lawn in order to save money. After an outcry from parents of present and former preschoolers, and after getting a little more revenue for the city budget, the council agreed to keep the place open for one more year while the staff looked for others to continue the program after the 2019-20 school year.
GAPS Business Director Russ Allen says the school board will take up the Maple Lawn contract on June 1. Like the city, the school district now faces severe budget problems of its own. Employees are being furloughed two days a week through the end of the school year next month. The legislature’s new business tax, intended to pay for expanded school programs, is likely not to produce much. And the state, which pays for most school costs, expects sharp losses in expected tax revenue in 2020-21.
At full enrollment, Maple Lawn has 88 children in six classes. The school has the equivalent of just under three full-time staff members.
Material presented to the council did not estimate expenses for 2020-21. But for ’21-22, the school is expected to cost about $256,000, of which fees at full enrollment would cover $132,000 and the school district would pay the rest, about $124,000.
If the school board agrees with the contract, and the public schools reopen as now scheduled, Maple Lawn too will again have children in it this fall. (hh)