Let's Work Together to Ensure The Children's School at CMC Continues Its 80-year Legacy

Let's Work Together to Ensure The Children's School at CMC Continues Its 80-year Legacy

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Josh Rogers started this petition to Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees and

On July 1, 2020 we received an email from Hiram Chodosh, President, and Coreen Rodgers, VP of Business and COO of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) abruptly announcing the decision to close our beloved preschool, The Children’s School (TCS) for the entire 2020-21 school year.  The school has served as a pillar of the Claremont community for over 80 years, serving students ages 2-5, many of whose parents work at the seven Claremont colleges. 

As parents of TCS children, staff and faculty of the 7 Colleges, and members of the broader Claremont community, this decision came as a shock. With one email, the CMC administration disrupted lives and damaged a beloved institution. It is our sincere hope that the support for this petition will convince you to take a step back from the seemingly drastic decision to close completely for the coming year and instead to put together a more inclusive process that considers intermediate and phased solutions. 

Our interests here are rooted, in part, by our deep need to provide our children with the type of enriching and wonderful experience offered by TCS. We made a very deliberate decision to make TCS our children’s home while we work, many of us at the 7Cs. Our little ones have come to know and love the teachers and their classmates like family. As one parent shared last week “My son has asked, crying, every single day since March when he can go back to his school.” Although your decision may have been driven by pragmatism and finances, the impact it has on our community’s young people is significant. The effect of being uprooted from their educational community during the most crucial developmental years of their life will last long into their futures. Since your email, we have discovered that several local preschools are opening in the Fall, but are not accepting new students, creating additional levels of stress and anxiety for our families. 

Having been touched by this unique institution, our concern is not only with our personal situations for the coming year, but for its continuity. There is no other local early childhood education center like TCS and closing it and losing its dedicated staff is an indescribable, irreparable loss to the community.  As you yourself state on your website, “The Children's School at Claremont McKenna College has been an integral part of The Claremont Colleges since its founding in 1936.” CMC’s founder’s decision to invest in early education was no doubt driven by its mission to prepare students for thoughtful, productive lives, and responsible leadership. Just as the decision to close will impact our children long past the 2020-21 school year, so too will it impact the future and legacy of this community institution. CMC could not survive after firing all faculty and staff and hoping to replace them next year and neither can an institution like TCS. We fear that the decision to shut down for 2020-2021 may result in a permanent closure, as teachers will have to seek employment elsewhere for the year. 

We are very aware of the serious challenges facing schools as they consider potential plans to reopen safely during the pandemic. As many of us are educators, we, too, have been involved in difficult discussions regarding social distancing, mask-wearing, alternative options to long indoor classroom sessions, extra cleaning and sanitizing, bans on bringing materials from home, and so on. We do not write this petition with an expectation that things could go “back to normal” at TCS, but we have been encouraged by other preschools and early childhood institutions that have found workable and safe options for providing children and families with some measure of childcare and developmental nurturing. To this point, the CMC colleagues among us see the decision as inconsistent with our stated mission of leadership in public policy.  Instead of shying away from operating in this environment, we should be showing the country how to make it work.

Finally, we want to express our deep disappointment regarding the manner in which CMC handled the school closure announcement. The decision appears to have been taken without consulting teachers and parents and to have been based on factors other than public health concerns. TCS faculty and staff have stewarded the school with the utmost competence and warmth. They have invested decades of their lives to build relationships with CMC, college student volunteers, and TCS families based on mutual trust, deep respect, transparency, and collaboration. They have created an extraordinary environment for our children, one that models open-mindedness, kindness, and critical thinking. The sparse communication we have had from CMC about the closure does not reflect any of these values.  We are requesting that, at the very least, CMC issue an apology to TCS staff and faculty and publicly acknowledge and celebrate their years of dedication to serving countless children and families.  They have upheld CMC’s reputation, and for CMC to take actions that belittle their priceless knowledge and expertise is disrespectful. 

Ultimately, we desire a deeper understanding of how and why this decision was made, and are eager to work together to find a way to a different outcome for the coming school year at TCS. Among the TCS parents and signatories of this petition are doctors, lawyers, financiers, consultants, teachers, professors, parents, and talented people from all walks of life. We are ready and waiting to work in collaboration with the incredible TCS staff and the CMC administration to ensure our children return and TCS continues to flourish as a pillar of the Claremont community.

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