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Jilted Parents Plan to Relocate Seminary Day-Care Facility

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In 1957, Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education established the Josephine Newbury Center for Childhood Education as a theology-based community outreach day-care facility.

Somewhere along the way, according to seminary officials, the program got away from them — and now, say parents dependent on the program, Union-PSCE is taking it away from the community. Founded originally as a teaching program for seminarians to develop skills educating children, it has since devolved, Union officials say, into a day-care program run by a director and small staff.

"They sent all the parents an e-mail [in January] that said, in so many words, that the program is going to be closing as a day school next year, best of luck," says Steve Cummings, a parent whose child is enrolled in the program. "My understanding is … the staff was told just a few hours before that."

Cummings is interim director of what he says is an attempt to pick up next year where the seminary left parents off.

Plans are in the works to move as much of the day-care center as possible intact to another location — perhaps another North Side church. Two of the program's teachers likely will move to the new school, while the current director is expected to remain available in an advisory capacity, Cummings says.

While parents are distraught that the seminary's program is being discontinued, they fundamentally understand the school's change of direction, Cummings says, adding that the parents were only upset that the seminary "didn't give us any time to continue the program."

Proper notice was given, according to Glenn Birch, a spokesman for Union-PSCE, and the seminary is in full support of parents' attempts to continue the school.

"We alerted the parents on the 12th of January that the program would discontinue after the end of the spring term," Birch says. "The program doesn't operate in the summer anyway. They've had — that'll be nine months [until the beginning of what would have been the fall term]."

"We have said in meetings with parents … that we're sorry for any inconvenience that this will cause them," he says. "We alerted them as quickly as we could in order for them to make other arrangements."

And the closure of the program — which is being retooled to integrate it with Union's master of arts in Christian education program — is temporary, Birch says. "We would really like to reclaim the original vision for that program in order to make it benefit our students who are going out to serve congregations in Christian education."

Additionally, Birch says, the seminary plans to donate $2,500 toward the parents' efforts to restart the school. S

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