UH closing child care school

May 20, 2009 5:08:14 PM PDT
A place where children have been going for child care for years will soon shut down in a move that has surprised the parents. The closure of the Childhood Development Center at the University of Houston is impacting parents, kids and teachers. The closure comes as a surprise to many of the parents. But being surprised is the least of their problems. Parents are now struggling to find suitable daycare at a time when most daycares have already closed enrollment for next year.

Wren and his brother Asa are ready to learn how to write and they're doing a great job. But it's the future of their learning that is distressing to their mother.

Marna Marsh said, "There are parents like myself who are despondent and desperate because, what are we going to do now with our children?"

For nearly 50 years, the Human Development Laboratory School has been taking care of kids at the University of Houston's main campus. The HDLS provides childcare and is a teacher training site for UH's college of education. Marsh is on the parent advisory board of the HDLS and her two sons attend the school.

She said, "I was just so impressed with the longevity of the teaching staff, the caring atmosphere, the things they were learning."

Marsh says she was surprised to learn UH officials wanted to close the school. University of Houston officials offered this prepared statement:

    "A review of the school during the past few months by the college found insufficient evidence of progress. It was running an operating deficit, with the exception of fiscal year 2004, that condition has remained. The college has invested more and more personnel time each year."
But a letter by the dean of the college of education to parents paints a different picture. Dated December 2008, the letter discusses changes in the school but goes on to call the facility one of the 'best kept secrets in Houston.'

Just last month, parents sent a letter to the college of education asking if there was a 'budget problem.' Parents like Marsh say the decision to close the facility was made without consulting parents or staff.

"I absolutely felt dismissed, disregarded, cheated of the possibility to begin a dialogue, a relationship and an avenue for all these situations to be rectified," Marsh explained.

The Human Development Laboratory School is scheduled to close July 31. As for Marsh, she's now on a waiting list for child care at another facility.

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