8 Valley childcare centers to close Thursday

FRESNO, Calif.

Thursday will be the last day -- for a while -- that employees at the Kerman Child Development Center will punch out their timecard. And the 111 children the center cares for daily will have to find someplace else to take their afternoon naps.

This is one of eight preschools operated by the I5 Social Services Corporation that will close its doors this week due to lack of state funding.

Marjorie Nielsen said, "It's going to impact our families quite heavily because they are all working people. Some of these children will go from babysitter to babysitter, I'm sure, some of them may spend the day in the car."

This is the third year the centers have been forced to shut down when legislators fail to pass a budget. I5 relies solely on state funds to provide services to more than 700 children from low-income families in the Valley's west-side.

Alex Valdez said, "It puts quite a burden on the family because someone is going to have to stay home and take care of children, so that means it cuts into their income as well."

Executive Director Alex Valdez says the state has limited the agency's reserves to only 5%. For I5 that comes to about $300,000, money they're using to cover payroll for 190 employees through June 30th.

Alex Valdez said, "We need to diversify our resources and we're definitely looking at that."

Valdez and department heads will also be laid off Thursday. Even if the budget is passed in the next few days, Valdez says the centers will remain closed until the agency receives its advanced apportionment, which could take 4-6 weeks. "I'm glad the controller is withholding these guys' pay, because they're not doing their job, period."

Back in Kerman, Supervisor Marjorie Neilsen says she feels for the kids, who will miss important schooling time and will ultimately suffer the most. "They need to think about the little people, literally, the little people."

I5 Social Services Corporation filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection in 2007. Valdez says the agency plans to dismiss the reorganization plan by the end of the year.

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