July 25, 2002
Main Street Child Development Center isn’t on Main Street anymore.
The center, which serves mostly low-income families, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 18 celebrating its temporary relocation to Green Acres School in Fairfax. Its space at Fairfax Baptist Church was no longer available when the church decided to expand.
Green Acres, which originally closed due to low enrollment, had been vacant since December of 2001 after temporarily housing students of Dogwood Elementary in Reston, who lost their school to a fire in November of 2000. Green Acres is also temporarily housing a senior center, which relocated from the J.C. Woods Center on Lee Highway, as well as a teen center.
“I think it’s a great partnership,” said Mayor Robert Lederer. “The center had lost their space, and we need to figure out a long-term solution for Green Acres.”
“There’s no sour grapes,” said Main Street’s executive director Elizabeth Egan, who said that last September, the church told the center it needed to reclaim the space used by the school to renovate and grow. “They were good to us for 29 years.” She added that the church extended the deadline for the move from June 1 to July 31 when it appeared that the center needed more time to relocate.
The center has benefited by moving to Green Acres, a larger facility with a bigger playground.
“We were literally on top of each other before,” said Egan. “I like it here better than the other place we had,” said Daniel Narvaez, whose daughter Daniela, 4, attends the center. Daniela Rojas, who had come to pick up daughter Lizzie, 3, indicated that the center was also accessible by bus.
The center’s closing would have jeopardized childcare for 72 children. Several parents had transferred their children from of other daycare programs to enroll them at the center due to the quality and affordability of the program. “I’ve tried other places,” said Terry Vazehgoo, who is a foster parent. She said teachers reinforced positive behaviors like affection and respect. “They pay more attention to the kids [than other places],” said Narvaez.
Egan emphasized the importance of “quality” early childhood programs.
MOVING PRESENTED special challenges for the center, which not only had to relocate to an affordable, accessible site in Fairfax, but also one that complied with the state and local regulations for childcare.
“We were really up against a wall,” said Egan, but said that the city had made the rent at Green Acres “very affordable for us.” Egan said that City Councilman Gary Rasmussen and the local Optimists’ Club were among those who lobbied hardest to help the school.
Because the center serves low-income families, they had only a 48-hour window in which to move so parents would not be without daycare services for too long. “Minimum-wage workers often don’t have sick days or vacation days to take off,” said Egan. “If they miss too many days they could lose their job.” Federal Express donated time and trucks and moved the center in 48 hours. It reopened on June 19. Internet service provider America Online painted walls and furniture for the move during the company’s Day of Caring, June 14.
THE CENTER OFFERS a sliding-scale fee system to families based on income and other factors and relies on state, county and city subsidies and grants.
For 2002-2003, Fairfax budgeted approximately $95,000 in parent fee subsidies for the center, according to Louise Armitage, human services coordinator for Fairfax.
“[Child care] … without the subsidy would not be available to the parents that desperately need this,” said Lederer.
The center also receives a grant from the United Way.
“It’s great that the parents pay based on what they make,” said Narvaez. “Here I only pay $7.65 a week,” said Rojas, who has a disability and only works part-time. “I was paying another place almost my whole check.”
Parents aren’t the only ones happy with the center. “My little one really loves to come to school,” said Narvaez. “Everyday [Lizzie’s] so anxious to get up and come to school,” said Daniela Rojas.
“I like playing with the kids,” said Lizzie Rojas.