College might delay closure of Family Education Center
Partners push for Dec. 31 extension
— One month after Cecil College announced plans to close the Family Education Center in Hollingsworth Manor in September, the college is considering pushing that deadline back.
Cecil College has operated the center in partnership with the Maryland Family Network, a private nonprofit that advocates for early education, for more than 25 years. The center currently serves more than 70 children from ages 6 weeks to 5 years old and their families through preschool and preK classes as well as parenting and GED classes.
The college announced last month that it planned to end its partnership with the MFN on Sept. 30 due to the loss of a $100,000 classroom grant as well as continued financial uncertainty regarding the center’s primarily grant-funded services. If a new partner can’t be found by that deadline, the center could close.
But in a meeting last week, the MFN asked the college to consider operating the center through Dec. 31 to give it more time to find a new partner, MFN director Margaret Williams said.
Cecil College said in a statement that it is currently considering this request.
“Cecil College met with the Maryland Family Network last week, and both entities are committed to serving the families and finding a new operator,” the statement reads. “The college will be getting back to the Maryland Family Network soon with our decision on keeping the MFN funded
programming until the end of December.”
The college’s decision could also end up affecting the Maryland Rural Development Corporation, a private nonprofit that serves the state’s rural communities, and leases space in the center to run one of its three county Head Start programs, a federally funded program that promotes school readiness for children from birth to age 5.
For its part, MRDC plans to continue running its Head Start program out of the center and is also “very interested” in possibly stepping into a bigger role, said MRDC Head Start Director Marisol Rodriguez, who emphasized that talks are in the preliminary stages.
“We are aware of (Cecil College) pulling out,” she said. “Our commitment is to the families and we want to remain in the building.”
The center’s building may also further complicate matters. The building, located on Road B in the Hollingsworth Manor neighborhood, is owned by the town of Elkton, which has been leasing it to the college for $1 a year since 2002. That lease ends in 2017, although the town would like to see the programs remain in the building, according to Williams.
The fact that the programs have remained in the building for so long is a testament to the somewhat unique partnership that has existed between the college and the MFN for so many years.
Cecil College is one of 26 organizations that the MFN partners with throughout the state to run family support centers. Under this model, the MFN receives grants to run early childhood programs and then delegates this money to its partner organizations, which operate and staff the programs. The college also seeks out and receives its own grants to fund programming.
Although this arrangement is used throughout the state, Cecil College is the only college that operates such a center. Cecil College President Mary Way Bolt told the Whig last month that over the past 25 years, the center’s purpose has gotten further and further away from the college’s mission.
Ideally, the college would like to see an organization that specializes in early education step into the partner role, Bolt said.
The MFN remains committed to seeing that happen and Williams said she hopes the extended deadline might help them do just that.
“We hope by then to have a new delegate agency in place,” she said.
After originally announcing it would close the Family Education Center on Sept. 30, Cecil College is considering extending that deadline to Dec. 31.