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S'side to privatize district day care

The Sunnyside School District's Early Learning Center will become a private operation, school board members decided last Thursday.

School Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole told board members that the center has just 37 students, when it is licensed to serve 97.

"The day care needs to run on its own merits," he said.

Board members were presented with three choices: raising the daily rate so the center pays for itself, have it run by a private contractor or shut the center down.

Cole advised that parents would not be able to afford the price increases needed to keep the center operational.

So, rather than shutting the day care down, the board opted to contract it out to Paula Gamez as a private business.

Gamez is an employee at the Early Learning Center and said she will lease the center, located at 1115 S. Ninth Street in Sunnyside.

"It's going to be privatized, like my own business," said Gamez. "The building and premises belong to the school district and I will pay them rent."

She said the center's goal of providing education from birth to five years of age will continue.

Since the center will be a private business, employee benefits will be less costly than those paid out by the school district.

"It's going to affect the people working at the center," said Gamez. "I'm going to give things six months to get stable, then start up again with health insurance benefits."

The transition from public to private becomes effective this August, Gamez said.

While she plans to recruit more students and, accordingly, add staff, Gamez said she will likely have to raise the daily rate for child care by $2.

Also under consideration is a deposit to help keep the center operating.

Gamez said she plans to communicate with parents who currently have children at the day care. She also plans to get the word out about the private day care with other parents in the area.

"My plan right now is to go out to the community and the schools this fall," she said.

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