Parents and students rallied on December 10 to save the Guild for Exceptional Children’s preschool in Borough Park — which provides services for children with developmental disabilities — after they were told in November that the school was set to close on January 23 due to financial difficulties.
SED funds the school, but at a rate of tuition that falls far below the region’s average, and tuition has been frozen for a six-year period. In the past three years, the school has lost nearly $2 million.
The lack of proper financial support was making it nearly impossible to keep the school open, according to GEC executive director and CEO Paul Cassone.
“The situation caused the preschool to suffer unsustainable fiscal losses that would jeopardize the entire organization if not stopped,” Cassone said.
Fortunately, the situation is on its way to being stabilized. SED has made recommendations to address elements of GEC’s tuition that may make the school’s finances functional.
But those recommendations still need to be approved by the Division of Budget and the Governor’s Office in order to take effect, and Cassone said the fight for funding is not over.
“Although SED’s recommendations are helpful in stabilizing the finances of the preschool program, GEC is still obligated to pay back the $1.4 million we borrowed in order to keep our doors open over the past two years,” he said.
The burden will be aided by funding from State Senator Martin Golden, who attended the rally earlier this month and has been a staunch supporter of the school.
"Finding funding for GEC was and remains a top priority for me,” Golden said. “This staple of the community must remain open, and I am proud to assist in those efforts.”
Pending the approval of the SED recommendations, GEC preschool — which currently serves 242 students between the ages of 2.5 and five — will remain open through the rest of the school year. The school’s future after that time remains unclear.
“We recognize the importance of early learning, and the profound impact it has on the lives of the children we serve,” Cassone said. “It was with great regret that we had to announce our closure plans, and it is with great joy that we are able to announce that the school will remain open to serve these children, hopefully for generations to come.”