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Irvine Approves $1.75-Million For Child Care

Times Staff Writer

In what could be first-of-its-kind financing in the state for child care, the Irvine City Council on Tuesday night authorized a $1.75- million bond sale with the local school district to place child-care centers at schools.

The funds will be used to buy portable buildings to be placed at seven school sites for after-school care for 350 elementary school students. The agency formed by the city and school district already has built six day-care centers at schools for the care of 270 children.

The loan will be guaranteed by the Irvine Co., which has issued a letter of credit to the Irvine Child Care Project, the joint powers authority formed by the city and Irvine Unified School District to develop the after-school day-care centers.

The project is empowered to raise money through the sale of bonds, just as the city or the school district is, said Deanna Manning, director of community services.

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The letter of credit means neither the city nor the school district is at financial risk for the bond sale, she said. “It’s our collateral. So if we can’t make the payments, the Irvine Co. will.” She called the letter of credit for such a bond sale “unprecedented.”

The Irvine City Council approved the bond sale without comment. The Irvine Unified School District Board of Trustees gave its nod to the loan last week.

The joint powers authority now must approve the bond sale to “close the deal,” Manning said.

The Irvine Child Care Project was set up expressly to develop after-school care facilities at elementary schools. It received $250,000 in start-up money from the Irvine Co. and $20,000 from the city. The school district contributed the land and overhead, Manning said.

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The child-care project will not operate the centers but will issue licenses to child-care providers, who will pay rent for the facilities, she said. The rent will pay off the bonds.

The first six school day-care centers were started without bond money. The $270,000 in start-up grants financed five; the sixth was built by the Irvine Children’s Fund, a nonprofit organization, Manning said.

The next seven centers are expected to be ready for the school year beginning in September.

Irvine, considered a leader in child-care policies among local cities, appears to be unique in using the bond approach to finance day-care centers.

Jack Hailey, children’s services consultant to state Senate Office of Research, said it was the first time he had heard of a public agency issuing bonds for child care.

Hailey called the solution well-suited to a growing city like Irvine. “This is not a way that a lot (of child-care centers) are going to be built, but for cities like Irvine, where there is growth and land, I hope those city governments and school districts take a look at this,” he said.

Start-up costs to build or renovate child-care centers often are prohibitively expensive. One child-care consultant said constructing a building for 75 to 100 children can easily cost $1 million.

A 5-month-old child-care center on the new Irvine City Hall grounds--believed to be the first of its kind in the state and one of the first in the nation--was built with bond money, but the bonds were issued for construction of the entire City Hall complex, of which the $1.2-million Irvine Child Development Center was a part.

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State Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, is sponsoring a bill authorizing a $300-million bond issue to finance low-interest loans for the construction or expansion of child-care facilities, said an aide, Joyce Iseri.

Irvine is not alone in setting up day care at schools. In Pomona, the school district sponsors an extensive child-care program--including 15 centers and programs for toddlers and preschoolers as well as schoolchildren--and has been heralded as one of the best in the nation.

Irvine was one of the first cities in the state to set up a child-care committee and hire a full-time child-care coordinator. The city council has adopted a policy which calls for child care to be available to every resident or worker who needs it by 1992.

Manning said the Irvine Co. has given money to the cause because its developments bring dual-career families and single parents to the city. Children in those families have a pressing need for safe and adequate child care, she said.

While “latchkey” child care for schoolchildren is one of the city’s most pressing needs, the city-school district venture is but one of many child-care programs promoted by the city.

“There are a number of ways to approach child care, and we decided we would use a multi-pronged approach,” Manning said.

The city has sponsored a child-care center operated by Irvine Valley College at Heritage Park and is working with a consortium of business interests in using the temporary City Hall building as a day-care center for employees’ children after the facility is vacated.

The city also sponsors school-age day care for children at five parks and works with private child-care providers to encourage development of new centers, Manning said.

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The bond issue for additional day-care centers at the schools will not fill the entire gap for latchkey care “but this will push us a long way toward our goal,” Manning said.


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