Owners of the Aladdin child-care centers in Redondo Beach and parents of about 200 children from throughout the South Bay who attend the centers vowed last week to fight a decision by the city's elementary school district that could force Aladdin to close or relocate at the end of June.
At a meeting last week, the school board rejected a bid by Aladdin for a seven-year lease at the former Fulton Elementary School, where Aladdin owner Clara Whiteman has run a day care center since 1981 and an infant-care center since 1983.
Instead, the trustees voted to grant the lease, which begins July 1, to Coast Christian School, a nonprofit school affiliated with the Calvary Church of the Coastlands in Torrance. Coast Christian Supt. David Ralph said the school, which offers classes from preschool to 12th grade, has outgrown its Inglewood Avenue site in Redondo Beach and needs to expand or start turning away students.
About 700 parents and other concerned residents from as far away as Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley signed a petition asking the school board to allow the Aladdin centers to remain at the Fulton site. Several parents appealed to the trustees not to deprive them of a trusted child-care facility during a period of turmoil in child-care services in the South Bay.
"With all the charges involving the McMartin Pre-School and the other child abuse stuff, I can't believe that kids aren't considered important enough yet," said Sharon Loeffler during an interview last week. Loeffler, of Hermosa Beach, has twins at the day care center. "It is scary that they are throwing these kids out on the street."
But district officials and board members said the Coast Christian bid, which included a $132,000 annual cash payment to the district, offered greater financial security than Aladdin, whose bid included an $80,000 annual cash payment and an estimated $110,000 credit from the state for Aladdin children who also attend Redondo Beach schools.
The $110,000 is distributed directly to the district by the state under the state's Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding regulations. According to the regulations, the district receives about $2,000 for each child who attends its schools, district officials said. The school district receives no state money for children who attend private schools, such as Coast Christian.
This year, 55 children at the Aladdin day care center, which accepts children ages 2 to 12, attend Redondo elementary schools, Whiteman said. Aladdin children, then, earn the district about $110,000 in ADA money, she said. About 60% percent of Aladdin children live in Redondo Beach anyway, but they might need to leave the district if the center closed or relocated out of the area, she said.
But district officials and trustees said the Aladdin bid did not conform to the district's bid requirements for the site, which specified that the district would not accept bids below $130,000.
"The administration recommended that the Coast Christian bid be accepted based on the position that the bid was proper and met all specifications," said Beverly Rohrer, assistant superintendent of the district. "Aladdin's asking for the district to credit their account makes the bid unresponsive to the stipulation about the minimum bid."
Rohrer and the school trustees also noted that Aladdin students incur costs for the district. Last year, the district estimated that it cost $2,400 to educate each elementary school student, Rohrer said.
Whiteman, who has hired an attorney to appeal the board's ruling, said her offer actually exceeded the Coast Christian bid by nearly $60,000 and said the school district was wrong to ignore the ADA credits. "We estimate the number of children from the day care center who attend the city schools will go up to 90 next year," she said. "That means the district would have realized $180,000 in ADA money in 1985-86."
Several school board members, while praising the Aladdin centers, said the Coast Christian offer was in the best interest of the district's 4,000 students. Trustee Howard Huizing, a former elementary school principal, complained that many of the Aladdin children are not from Redondo Beach and that the children are costing the district money.
"They do a tremendous job, but to bring in children from the outside and serve them at a cost to our own children would not be economically feasible or sound," he said. "We all admire their programs and wish they could stay. But we have to look out for the best interests of the Redondo Beach children."
Trustee Valerie Dombrowski called the Aladdin proposal a "subsidy for private enterprise," saying that the 140-child day care center, which is a profit-making venture, caters to people who can afford the care. The infant-care center, which has 56 children, is a nonprofit organization.
"I do feel compassion for the parents who have children at Aladdin, but I also feel compassion for the children centers within the school district that are for low- and middle-income people," Dombrowski said. "If we were to turn around and take the lower bid, I would be taking $50,000 away from the children already in the district."
Parents of Aladdin children, however, said that the centers offer services difficult to find elsewhere in the South Bay. The centers stay open until 8 p.m. and remain open on weekends, making them convenient for parents who work odd shifts. Children at the day care center are escorted to school by staff, and the infant-care center accepts children as young as 6 weeks.
"This organization presents a quality of child care that is unique in the area," said Edward Caprielian of Manhattan Beach, who has a 15-month-old daughter in the infant-care center. "They are now faced with extinction and strong loss to the public."
Intend to Fight
Whiteman and members of the centers' parents association said that they intend to fight the board's decision by seeking help from Redondo Beach city officials, writing letters to the school board and investigating what legal rights they have to appeal.