Officials question Shattuck child care’s pending closure

February 14, 2014
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FOREST HILLS—Seven months after the state-subsidized Shattuck Child Care Center was given its official eviction and de-funding notice, it is no closer to finding a new permanent home, despite getting help from local elected officials.“It’s really unfortunate. Very, very, very sad, really,” said state Rep. Liz Malia, blasting the lack of resolution. “The [state] administration has moved to not only close the center, but to not reach out with any help at all. I’m dumbfounded by that.”

The center, currently serving about 40 children in the soon-to-be decommissioned Personnel Building on the Shattuck campus, has been subsidized by the state for the last 44 years. The state has paid for three employees and has not charged the center rent during that time. Both forms of support will be withdrawn starting in August.

The Personnel Building, part of Shattuck’s campus just inside Franklin Park at 170 Morton St., will be emptied and mothballed due to a host of structural deficiencies discovered during an “extensive” state review of the grounds conducted in October 2012.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and state Reps. Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez and Liz Malia have all gotten involved in trying to find new sources of funding and a new permanent home for the child care center.

A Gazette email to Alec Loftus, communication director for EOHHS, was not returned by press time.

According to Clare Reilly, a member of the Shattuck Child Care Center Board, the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has told the center that if the center can find funding, the state will consider finding another location for the center on another state property. That could be outside JP, with one possible location near Harvard Square in Cambridge.

The center has already found a mobile modular unit. The center just needs a place to house it.

According to Chang-Díaz, the center also identified a new state capital fund, recently created to support facilities in situations just like this. The fund is expected to start accepting applications in July. But it will only take applications to fund existing leases, meaning that the center would, at the very least, need an extension on its current lease.

The center has requested a 10-year commitment from the state for the Cambridge space, but it cannot get the lease without funding to pay for it.

“We’re sort of in a Catch-22,” Reilly told the Gazette.

“You have to be an open, operating child care center to apply” for the state fund, Chang-Díaz explained. “If they close down this summer, they won’t be eligible.”

The center has also applied for space for the mobile unit on Shattuck grounds, which EOHHS has denied.

“We have not been given any answer as to why Shattuck grounds would not work,” Reilly said.

“We don’t understand why this particular [child care center] isn’t being supported by the administration,” Malia said.

The center and its allies have made numerous attempts to reach EOHHS Secretary John Polanowicz and Gov. Deval Patrick, to no avail, she added.

“They [the center’s board] have been working so hard, trying to come up with a solution and they haven’t been getting answers,” Chang-Díaz told the Gazette. “The center isn’t asking the administration to come in and wave a wand and fix it all. The child care center’s board has come a long way in restructuring their finances, changing their fee structure and finding a new space.”

The center has also decided to raise its tuition to pay its employees, assuming it remains open.

“I’m not sure what the final strategy is going to be,” Malia said. “I’m definitely discouraged.”

Chang-Díaz said that EOHHS representatives failed to meet an early December deadline to schedule a meeting about the center. The meeting has still not been held.

Last year, Gov. Deval Patrick called for universal access to high-quality early education for children across the state, from birth through age 5.

In August 2012, the state informed the child care center of the Personnel Building’s mothballing. The state promised the child care center that they would have a process to identify another space on campus and that the center would have a year to move from the time a new space was identified, Reilly previously told the Gazette.

“We never heard from them again,” she previously told the Gazette.

It is unclear when and why the state decided to close the building.

The child care center was founded in 1969 as the National Council of Jewish Women day care center and renamed in 1989. It was used as a recruitment tool for state employees to come work at Shattuck.

The Personnel Building, home to the Shattuck Child Care Center, at 170 Morton St. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

The Personnel Building, home to the Shattuck Child Care Center, at 170 Morton St. (Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira)

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