Kids’ Club supporters hold march, rally before Antioch School Board meeting

By John Crowder

Parents, children, teachers, and administrators connected with Kids’ Club Preschool marched to the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) School Services Building and held a rally in support of their program prior to the May 27, 2015, AUSD School Board meeting.

Following their rally, those who participated headed inside and filled the small board room, prompting Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray, chairing the meeting due to the absence of Board President Claire Smith, to ask people to move to the lobby, where she said they would be able to hear the proceedings over the speaker system. According to Gibson-Gray, it was necessary to clear part of the boardroom in order to maintain the safety of everyone present. Many of those attending quickly moved, and the board meeting was then able to proceed.

With a large number of people asking to address the board during public comments, the order of business was slightly modified, with public comments beginning earlier than had been scheduled.

Those who addressed the board on behalf of the preschool had two requests. The first was for an extension of time on their lease, set to expire in July, 2015. The second request was for the school district to provide the operators of Kids’ Club with vacant land, on which they said they could place modular, or portable, buildings, in order to keep the program in Antioch.

This was the largest group yet to have spoken out at a public meeting over the last few months about the impending end of the lease the preschool has held with AUSD at Bidwell Elementary School, 800 Gary Avenue, in Antioch, since 2012.

Speakers supporting Kids’ Club have been addressing both the city council and school board with various requests since early February:

  • February 11, AUSD School Board – Mark Mokski, Executive Director of Kids’ Club

    and Cheryl Miller, Kids’ Club Site Supervisor, ask board members to visit the facility and view their program.

  • April 14, Antioch City Council – Mokski states, “I’m asking for political help, to raise

    the money.” “I ask for your support. I do not ask for money, I do not ask for property, I do not ask for buildings. I ask for political support. Stand besides Kids’ Club. Help us raise some money.”

  • April 15, AUSD School Board – Mokski states he is not asking for a renewal of the

    lease, but help in raising, “$100,000 to $200,000” to renovate one of a number of buildings he has access to. Other speakers ask that the Kids’ Club lease be renewed.

  • May 26, Antioch City Council – Mokski states, “We ask for empty land.”

As previously reported, the original lease was set to expire on July 31, 2014, but contained a one-year option to renew. In exercising that option, Mokski also wrote in a letter dated May 22, 2014, that, “Kids’ Club Preschool acknowledges, based upon a verbal conversation on May 20, 2014 that the leased space will no longer be available after next year.”

AUSD has addressed the issue with a statement on the District website. According to that statement, the District needs the space currently occupied by the preschool in order to, “expand its current special education programs at Bidwell.”

At the end of the board meeting, Board Member Debra Vinson brought up the Kids’ Club issue. Expressing concern with the lease termination, she advocated reviewing that decision. “I’m definitely concerned,” she said. “There must be other options.”

State-funded preschool program to open

Following the board meeting, Herald staff learned that at least some of the children attending Kids’ Club may have another option available.

Kathy Coletto, Director of The Child Day Schools, located at 112 E. Tregallas Road in Antioch, said that she has been informed that their program is being awarded a contract from the state of California to operate a state-funded preschool program.

Some of the families from Kids’ Club will qualify for our program starting July 1st, 2015,” Coletto stated.

She went on to say that they have enough space for 87 preschoolers, and will be hiring additional staff, as well. Parents interested in The Child Day Schools program should call Coletto at (925) 754-0144 for more information.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

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