Aug. 28, 2001 – The Human Services Department closed its Cruz Bay Day Care Center on Aug. 10 because with declining enrollment it was no longer cost effective to keep it open, Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert said at a meeting at the Legislature Building Tuesday.
At the time of its closing, the center was serving seven children. Its operating budget was $172,000 a year, funded by the local government, while it was bringing in about $20,000 in fees from parents.
Teacher's aide Beverly Hendricks said there were five people on a waiting list for day care, a statement that puzzled Halbert. The commissioner said she was unaware of anyone waiting for space and asked, "Why would there be a waiting list and declining enrollment?" She and several Human Services staff members said they had never seen a waiting list.
However, a poll of the nearly three dozen people who attended the meeting turned up 28 children needing day care. Halbert said the department had not assessed the need for day care in St. John because enrollment at the day care center had dropped over the past several years.
Hendricks said the number of children enrolled at the center was low because some of the former participants were transferred to Head Start. She later said the day care center had room for 30 children.
Halbert said she would need to look at the needs of the children on a waiting list before determining what should be done. Some of those children may be eligible for the federally funded Head Start program. Children must be 3 years of age to enter Head Start, and their parents must meet low-income criteria.
The day care center on St. John was the last one in the territory still being operated by Human Services. The facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix were closed in 1994, with the eligible children moved to Head Start programs. A federal government program that subsidizes private day care for eligible children filled in the gaps.
St. John parents are eligible for the same subsidy. But several parents at the meeting said the island's two private day care centers — one at Pine Peace School and the other run by the Methodist Church — are filled up. They also said Head Start has no space. Care is available from people who provide baby-sitting services in their homes, but several mothers said they wanted an educational experience for their children, rather than baby-sitting.
"When he was at school, he was way ahead," said Tina Krigger, whose 2 ½-year-old son had attended the day care center. Several parents said that private day care is too expensive for their budget. Parent Akila Smith said she had to quit one of her two jobs because she no longer had day care for her child.
The meeting had been called by Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, but he was unable to attend due to being called off island. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole filled in.


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