A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Maple Lawn replay: Preschool to close

Written February 27th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Here’s a shot from the files: Maple Lawn in May 2020, when the preschool was temporarily closed.

Maple Lawn, the city-owned house and grounds on Salem Avenue, has been home to a preschool for a long time, but not much longer. The Albany school district has paid for the operation since 2021 but will stop doing so when this school year ends.

For many years the preschool for kids 3 years and older had been operated by the city parks department. In 2019 the city wanted to close the school to save money but agreed to try to find someone to run it.

In the spring of 2020, the city council and the school board reached a three-year agreement calling on the school district to pay for the operation of the school, including staff and overhead, starting in 2021. The three years are up, and the district announced on Feb. 23 that a looming budget shortfall is forcing it to quit supporting Maple Lawn after this school year.

“When you layer inflation costs on top of the budget challenges; the need to pay a competitive wage; and liability costs, unfortunately, the cost to operate Maple Lawn became too much for the district to bear,” the school district press release last week quoted Superintendent Andy Gardner.

The GAPS budget this year allocates $440,000 to support the Maple Lawn program, district spokeswoman Michelle Steinhebel told me. As of last week, 87 chilldren were enrolled there. Parents pay a fee to have their children attend.

Four staff members work there.

“Since the transition began in 2021, they have remained City employees as they do not have the state certifications required for all GAPS teachers,” City Manager Peter Troedsson explained in an email.

In past summers, the city laid off the Maple Lawn teachers and rehired them in the fall. This year the city won’t rehire them.

But, Troedsson says, the Education Service District (which covers Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties), “has indicated that instructional assistant jobs may be available for those who aren’t retiring and who would like to continue serving in the early childhood education field.”

What happens to the property when the preschool is gone?

“We know the building will return to programmable space and as staff we are talking about possibilities in the upcoming weeks,” Parks Director Kim Lyddane said via email. “Maple Lawn will continue to serve as a preschool until the end of the academic year and then will serve as a main location for our Parks and Recreation summer camps (as it has for years).”

One reader reminded me about Maple Lawn stories I wrote when the city planned to close it four or five years ago.

“So many studies show that preschool is so important to the success of students as they enter public schools, especially with the increased demands as students enter full day kindergarten,” wrote Julie Bixler, an early-childhood specialist who supports students who have special education services and attend Maple Lawn.

“It is unfortunate that GAPS cannot see that supporting pre-K is going to benefit them in the long run.”

She added: “I am not sure if this is a story you would want to write about again, but a lot of great teachers and families in our community are really going to be sad to see this amazing school close.” (hh)

6 responses to “Maple Lawn replay: Preschool to close”

  1. The Truth says:

    Good! There is no reason the public sector has to provide services that the private sector can provide, especially to such a small number of people. I wholeheartedly support pre-k education as it is a great benefit to the kiddos, but let private companies provide that service.

    Hopefully the city will now sell the property to a private entity for use as a daycare or develop into needed housing or social services.

  2. Abe Cee says:

    Seems like $440000 is pretty cheap for 87 students or about $5k a head. You don’t mention what fee the that parents pay is but ~$500 a month is dirt cheap for preschool/childcare. I find it hard to believe they can’t solve the budget issue if they really wanted to.

  3. CHEZZ says:

    This building is quite historic – and may be eligible for some grants for upkeep. There is (was) a very old collection of books from the early 1900’s in there – where did they go?
    In the past the building was also utilized for smaller wedding and reception events. The building is quite interesting in character and architecture.

  4. RICH KELLUM says:

    When the City funded this it was a real eye opener, expensive, every kid was subsidized by City taxpayers, some of whom did not live in the City, at least one did not even live in the County. Even with the parents paying some of it, it was thousands of dollars of subsidy.
    All for something that was not the responsibility of City Taxpayers, no one wanted to talk about how it got started.

  5. chris j says:

    “the truth” is that preschool is a social service. Some families cannot afford private preschool. Should all schools become private? Education is very important to having a positive population. Let us continue to pay for the homeless we do not really help and for wading pools etc. I understand now why kiddos are so attached to their phones. Our society is so detached from reality, if you can’t beat them, join them. Teaching them when they are young is better than paying for drug addiction, homelessness and incarceration.

    • Cap B. says:

      I agree. Those 87 kids need that pre-school. But, no, the City and School District shut it down. Instead, let’s pour some more concrete at Monteith Park for a bigger wading pool and play area and cut down some more trees. Make it spiffy for the summer concert series. Just let the 87 pre-school kids fend for themselves. At present, the AARP free tax preparation program is the main filler of the parking lot behind the Senior Center. But, the 21.5 million dollar Water St. improvements are supposed to spark interest in the Sr. Center; that is Riverview Community Center. Pardon my mistake. The city “fathers,” and mothers, ran off most of the seniors, so we’ll see what happens.


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