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Cedar Rapids Preschool Closing

CEDAR RAPIDS (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The first kids to go through the preschool program at Saint Pauls United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids are now old enough to have grandchildren enjoying the same learning opportunities.  Parent have high praise for the teachers, staff and quality prep the program gives their kindergarten bound youngsters.

But after 49 years the Early Childhood Board and leaders of the church have decided to close the preschool.  The news leaves about 75 families looking for alternatives and some, like mother of two, Leslie Sackfield, sad and a little frustrated.

I was absolutely in shock.  I was there when I was little and thats the first place that I learned that God loves me and its where I wanted my daughters to go," says Sackfield.

As one daughter pirouettes across the living room and the other giggles, Sackfield explains it will be a hardship when the preschool closes this spring. She says most families pay up to $150 a month and moving somewhere else will mean at least double the cost.  She says for families in the nearby Wellington Heights neighborhood that will be devastating.

Its an area that doesn't have many positive things and there might be children whose parents can't drive them other places and it's centrally located maybe where families need it to be if we don't have that anymore where are we going to go."

Church leaders insist it is not an easy decision, but one thats been years in the making.  Pastor Harlan Gillespie looks around one of the small classrooms used for preschool youngsters and explains that these are not multipurpose rooms.  Over the years they have become very specific for the needs of the preschool children and that means they dont work well for the other needs of the church.

Pastor Gillespie says, It was a matter of trying to balance all of the church resources .. building space resources .. staffing resources .. financial resources .. all those things match together in some way for the future of the church." Gillespie says some of those who made the decision also have children that attend or have attended the preschool.

Sackfield says its her understanding the preschool program pays for itself and shouldnt be a burden in any way on church finances.  For now she can only pray for a miracle.

Sackfield says, I have hope there is a way to change their minds .. Im not sure if the congregation is aware of how important the preschool is to the families that attend it."
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