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Photo by David Colburn
Linda Knogl stands outside the Granite City School Board’s central office location at 1947 Adams St. in Granite City following the board meeting. She raises her fist and blue wristband in support of maintaining the status quo operation of the Early Childhood Center.
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Photo by David Colburn
Linda Knogl addresses the Granite City School Board Dec. 8 to express concern over the fate of the Early Childhood Center. Her comment served as the first of three presented to the meeting regarding the Early Childhood Center.
GRANITE CITY — Parent Douglas Crites commends the Granite City School District’s Early Childhood Center for helping his son, Jake, transform “from speaking five words to forming full sentences.”
In a similar vein, parent Nicole Price said the center helped her son to come “out of his shell, bloom and to be energetic about school.”
“We want to fight for what they can’t say,” Price said. “If I had to pay for the Early Childhood Center, I would.”
Retired early childhood and special education teacher and grandparent Linda Knogl is afraid the center’s days are numbered.
“Is this really the right time to crush a diamond?” Knogl asked in her address to the board during last week’s meeting. “Don’t leave this city a wasteland.”
On Dec. 8, concerned parents and grandparents attended the board’s 5 p.m. meeting to explain the center’s impact on both personal lives and the community at large.
“You can’t base your decision solely on finance,” Crites said. “We can’t take emotion out of the equation when we’ve got kids.”
Crites, along with Knogl and Price, expressed concern over the financial benefit of closing the Early Childhood Center.
“We need to know the numbers,” Crites said. “What is the real financial justification?”
“Show us what part of the considered options really improves education,” Knogl added. “We are listening.”
The district has been discussing the fate of the center, which has approximately 275 students and 20 members of the staff, for several weeks. Superintendent Jim Greenwald has said no decisions have yet been made, and the center will stay open for at least the immediate future.
In her initial public comment presented at the Nov. 17 board meeting, Knogl detailed the controversy.
“I have heard that the district is in discussion to relocate classrooms at the Early Childhood Center in order to move offices there,” she said. “This beautifully remodeled, state-of-the-art building, now in its eighth year, was designed and intended to serve 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds at risk and special education students. It is funded through a grant that may be jeopardized if these classrooms are dispatched to the district’s elementary buildings. This is grant money our district cannot afford to lose.
“I urge you to become well-informed before making any decision and examine carefully who is really benefiting.”
“We’re meeting with the board in individual pocket meetings with one or two people because they haven’t seen what our possible plans are,” Greenwald said. “We’re looking at several different options. We’re looking at repainting the program. People don’t easily embrace change and defending the people at the Early Childhood Center, I understand they are not happy. We could be saying that we’re not going to keep the program, but that’s not what we’re doing.
“We feel that pre-K education is very important to the development of a child and we have to look at creative ways to make that happen and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”
Knogl said Greenwald is open to the possibility of an informal meeting to discuss the issue.
“If Jim meets with our committee, we could make recommendations and use those as comments for the next board meeting on Jan. 12,” she said.
Knogl also emphasized the importance of the specific intent of the facilities and equipment — including the parent waiting area for arrivals and departures, playground equipment, appropriate toilet sizes and adequate storage facilities — to the children who attend.
After listening to the comments presented by Knogl, Crites and Price, Board President Bev Scroggins stated that the group is “preaching to the choir” with their concerns for the future of the Early Childhood Center and that the board ultimately does not “think you have anything to fear.”
“I’m grateful they’re giving us the opportunity to comment, but I don’t think they’ve changed their mindset,” Knogl said following the meeting’s adjournment. “I don’t think there will be any change in attitude until our presence increases at these meetings.
“The support in the community has expanded in the past month as the issue has been brought to the awareness of other parents and concerned citizens. We’re not only parents and grandparents, but also taxpayers and voters.”
For more information, visit the Facebook page at Granite-City-Parents-For-Children-First.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Theo Tate provided some information for this article.