CLAREMONT — The One-4-All Center, an educational and family support program in downtown Claremont, will operate in the future without financial support from the Claremont School District, who announced plans to end its funding to the organization after a five-year partnership.
The Claremont School District, facing a combination of revenue reductions and unanticipated costs next year, plans to eliminate its funding contribution, totaling $152,422, to the One-4-All Center, whose wrap-around services include a pre-school, drop-in play space, teen homework support, and parenting classes and mentoring.
One-4-All Center Director Cathy Pellerin said she did not learn of the district’s plans prior to last week’s announcement, though the decision was not entirely unexpected.
“We thought this was coming,” Pellerin told the Eagle Times on Tuesday. “The district was interested in pulling our funding last year before we convinced them to give us another year.”
Pellerin said the center has been working on acquiring backup grants to make up the loss of the district funds.
The One-4-All Center, which opened its doors in November 2015, is technically an independent nonprofit organization run by the Claremont Learning Partnership, though for grant-funding purposes the center’s programs fall under the Claremont School District’s operating umbrella. The school district’s funding portion had been covered by a Title I grant.
In addition to the district’s funding portion, the One-4-All Center is also funded through other grants and donations, as well as childcare subsidies and parent tuition payments. Most of the families and children who utilize the One-4-All Center, including the pre-school, are referrals from local partnering programs such as TLC Family Resource Center, Turning Points Network, West Central Behavioral Health and Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).
Pellerin does not fault the district for its decision, she said. Last year the state determined that the program no longer qualified for the Title I funding, which had made the One-4-All Center's operations cost-neutral to the district.
“So now it has an impact on the tax dollars in Claremont,” Pellerin explained. “And I believe the administration is very conscientious about making sure that each and every tax dollar is being put to the best use possible.”
Pellerin, a Stevens High School graduate, is highly familiar and empathetic to the school district’s fiscal challenges, particularly at present where districts across the state are feeling the budgetary repercussions from the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re doing the best they can,” Pellerin said. “This is a difficult time right now and they have to make the best of a really bad situation.”
Perhaps the one frustration, according to Pellerin, is the center did not have an opportunity yet to demonstrate the educational payoff from its programs, as fall 2021 will be the first time that the One-4-All Center's pre-school children will enter kindergarten.
“These are kids who are entering kindergarten from teenage-parent households who struggled with many issues, from homelessness to addiction,” Pellerin said. “And I can guarantee, when they enter kindergarten, they are going to be ready to be there.”
The One-4-All Center pre-school program has an instructional staff of five people to serve 14 pre-school aged children and between six to eight infants or toddlers. Pellerin said the program is intentionally small to provide a high quality of individualized attention.
“These are kids who need it,” Pellerin said.
While the school district also operates a pre-school program for children with special needs, Pellerin does not see her program as a competition but a complimentary resource. The demand is so high for high-quality child care providers that having multiple sources in the community is only an added benefit, she said.
The One-4-All Center has arguably received more community recognition for its work with teen parents, Pellerin said. The center’s pre-school has additionally functioned as a childcare provider for teenage parents, to allow the parents to finish their high school education and their occupational transition.
The center is currently reconfiguring its space to enable them to safely reopen their drop-in play center, which has been closed during the ongoing pandemic. The pre-school program, which follows the district schedule, had been open but closed when the district switched to fully remote instruction.
The One-4-All Center is also completing construction on its Oasis Teen Shelter and Support, a temporary residential shelter and support center for adolescents. The facility will include six bedrooms, four bathrooms and two kitchens and a food pantry, which has been funded through a state grant.
As for the district funding, Pellerin said she expects “a few bumps in the road” but ultimately the change represents a transition in the program’s operating structure rather than an end.
“As things end, new things are beginning,” said Pellerin. “As the school district is losing interest in our program, our program has gained value to other people in different ways. It’s just the give-and-take of living in a community.”