Friendly break from UCC
By Mark Reaman
An amicable break between the Paradise Place Preschool and the Union Congregational Church is in effect as of the first of September. The move will allow the preschool to expand its offerings that were restricted under state law due to the separation of church and state.
“Under Paradise Place’s current structure we are unable to provide specialist services, i.e., speech, behavior support, psychologists, etc., for our students who are over three years old,” Paradise Place executive director Ben Poswalk told parents of students in a recent letter.
Poswalk wrote, “Due to the State Constitution, ‘child care programs or preschools in religious based facilities using religious curriculum are not eligible to become Colorado Preschool Program community partners.’ As this is clearly not in the best interest of the child, we are willing to change our structure so that we can do what is best for the child.”
As a result, the preschool is now a 501c3 non-profit. That will entail the school forming its own board of directors and will require fundraising to keep the doors open. The move should open some doors to state and federal grant opportunities. It also means there will be a change in curriculum moving from a faith-based Christian focus to a more secular teaching method.
“We will be using The Creative Curriculum® for pre-school, which is a comprehensive, research-based curriculum that features exploration and discovery as a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills,” Poswalk explained. “It is designed to help educators at all levels of experience plan and implement a developmentally appropriate, content-rich program for children with diverse backgrounds and skill levels.”
The UCC will continue to own the building where the school is located but there will now be a lease arrangement. There are currently 50 students enrolled in the facility and the expectation is now that kids older than three years old can continue at the school, the numbers will rise. That will entail a partnership with the local school district.
“Essentially children are identified through our local ‘Child Find’ coordinator who is funded through the school district and then parents sign a permission slip for their child to receive extra support from specialists who will now be allowed to work in our building,” said Poswalk. “We have students who have been receiving speech, behavioral and OT support that have recently turned three. With this move we will be able to continue their care and our relationship with their families versus forcing them change to another program to get the same services. We look forward to working with the Gunnison Watershed School District to provide the best possible care we can for our students.”
Paradise Preschool has been affiliated with the UCC for the past 29 years.