EL CENTRO — A concerned mother of three children spoke before the El Centro City Council on Tuesday evening, October 2 to express her disappointment on the city’s decision to discontinue the child enrichment program that became effective Sept. 29 of this year.
Carrying her youngest child, Anahi, 3, in a carrier on her back, Patricia Ochoa told Council Members about the importance of the Half Pint Program in her children's lives.
“Parents were saddened and disappointed that the program was cancelled,” said Ochoa, whose two other children also attended the City Council meeting.
The Half Pint Program was founded nine years ago with funding from a grant, stated Ochoa. It was designed as an enrichment program for children ages three to six and parents were not required to be present on site. The three-hour enrichment program started at 3:00 in the afternoon and included story time, craft and playtime, singing, and learning social skills.
According to Ochoa, she used the time to do errands, take time for herself and was planning to take classes at the local community college. “This program worked best for our family,” she explained.
City officials said their decision was based on budget and enrollment.
“This is a difficult decision that we had to make,” said Adrian Nava, El Centro's Community Services Director.
The minimum wage has gone up to $12 per hour for the three staff that run the program, he explained.
“This was the program that had the least enrollment,” Nava said, “but we had to be there seven hours every day. Daily attendance was about six to eight children, but the city was struggling to meet a 15-20 child daily enrollment. The fee for the program was $35 per child each month and the budget cost for staffing was very high,” said Nava.
“Because of the low attendance, the program was cut,” Nava said.
City Council members asked Nava to seek other funding sources, but this would take time and the results may not be immediate.
“As a director, I hate to cut services. When we have to cut programs, it is very disheartening for me,” Nava commented.
With the city’s decision to nix the Half Pint Program, Ochoa said she will seek other community programs best suited for her three children.