Idea for preschool presented to DMUSD

Formal request for facility still to come

Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Sharon McClain presented the for-profit preschool concept to the board of trustees for the first time last week. The presentation came late, at around 10:30 p.m., so the board was prompted to continue the discussion at a special meeting, yet to be scheduled.

Earlier in the meeting, board President Katherine White told the district’s 7-11 committee that finding a home for the preschool was not yet a board directive, as they hadn’t ever had a discussion about the concept.

“As of right now you are not directed to find space for a 22 classroom preschool,” White said.

Since May, the committee has been meeting and all of their proposals have included space for the preschool.

The current district preschool serves about 48 children with special needs and 12 other peers, and is free of charge, McClain said. It uses seven classrooms at Sycamore Ridge, some rooms used for occupational or behavior therapy or adapted physical education.

Another employee childcare preschool serves 47 children in three classrooms at the Shores property. Fifty-nine percent are the children of employees and 100 percent in the infant program are employees’ children. The district invites non-employee children ages 18 months to 2 years, as space becomes available.

The proposed preschool would serve 48 special needs students and about 240 typical preschool children in 22 classrooms. There would be 12 classrooms as well as rooms designated for speech, adapted PE, an office and a meeting room.

For licensing purposes, the preschool would need to have one toilet and a sink for every 15 children, 35 square feet per child of indoor activity space and 75 square feet per child of outdoor activity space.

Using a base tuition of $7.86 an hour and an average 17 hours a week per child, McClain said the preschool could bring in $1.2 million. If the school charged $10.67 an hour like some Solana Beach preschools do, they could net $1.5 million in tuition, she said.

“It would certainly save the district money if this preschool pays for any part of itself,” McClain said. “I recommend the board move forward with the preschool option.”

Jennifer Fulston, a district nurse and parent of a special needs child, said she supports the preschool concept and the “outstanding” opportunity it represents. She said the integration of her special needs children into a classroom of typical peers promotes improved social and language skills and fosters friendships.

“It’s also a benefit for the general education population as they learn how to accept and support children with different needs,” Fulston said.

Del Mar Hills parent Beth Westburg expressed her concern that a preschool be built at the expense of a district school.

“Is there a market to add a 300-child preschool to our area? Or is the plan to close a school, build a preschool and hope they come?” Westburg asked. “Once again you are putting the cart before the horse. How can you possibly justify closing a school to open a preschool?”

Westburg said with so many unanswered questions, it would be irresponsible for the board to move forward with the for-profit preschool concept.

White agreed with Westburg that the board still has many questions. She said they would forward them to McClain to answer before their special meeting.