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Schools develop six-point plan to secure future

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At midyear, ACE teachers are settled in, looking ahead

Nine teens who excel

St. Patrick’s opens infant care center in West Contra Costa

Urban school students get lesson in digital filmmaking

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School affordability: Progress made but still a long way to go

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Philly school mergers, closures signal new model of education

Court avoiding cases on firing

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placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA

Three teachers put their artistic talents to work, creating murals of flowers and animals in the former convent chapel.
Loretta Airoldi photo

St. Patrick’s opens infant care
St. Patrick
Infant Care Center

Where: 907 Seventh St., Rodeo

Contact: 510-799-2506

Cost: $795 a month for full-time infant care

Open house: 10:30 a.m.-noon Jan. 29
center in West Contra Costa

The newest member of the St. Patrick School community was dressed in a white shirt and white pants with tiny pink and black dancers printed on them. She was in no danger, however, of being out of uniform.

As school began in January, there was a new member of the student body: A 15-month-old girl is the first person enrolled at the new St. Patrick Infant Care Center.

With the addition of the center, babies as young as six weeks can be cared for on the campus of the parish that serves Hercules and Rodeo. Given that the parish has a preschool, as well as a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, a young person could spend the first 14 years of life at St. Patrick’s.

While some parishes have preschool programs, the St. Patrick center is believed to be the only infant care center at a parish school.

“We listened to what our families were telling us,” said Principal Kelly Stevens. “The idea came from our parents. Moms who were dropping off kids at multiple places were telling us, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could drop them all off in one spot?’”

Rev. Larry Young

The Rev. Larry Young, pastor, agreed to the move that is both family-friendly and a strong step toward ensuring the future of the school.

“As Father said at Mass,” Stevens said, “Mom can have the baby, bring it to St. Pat’s and stay through eighth-grade graduation.”

Father Young said he was seeing young families struggling in this economy; an infant care center in a place they already knew could relieve some stress for families in which both parents must work outside the home.

He also had the school’s future in mind. The school has had a preschool onsite for the last decade; the addition of the child care center means a family could bring its child to the school for the first 14 years of life.

“It all makes sense,” he said.

From idea to enrollment involved steps including the school board, as well as county and state regulators.

“We had the space,” Stevens said. The chapel of the convent that was once the home to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been converted to the infant care center. Art teacher Loretta Airoldi, first-grade teacher Kari Martz and second-grade teacher Kellianne Smith put their artistic talents to work, creating lovely murals of flowers and animals. Four cribs are lined up, and a rocking chair is at the ready for naptime. Skylights illuminate the playroom, helping to add to, in Stevens’ words, “the loving, warm atmosphere.”

Although St. Patrick’s plans to care for 12 babies, the license provides the school with room to grow. Three babies are scheduled to join in February.

The center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the same as the extended day hours of the school. State regulations call for one caregiver for every four babies. Maria Escalada, parishioner who has experience as a provider of infant care, is the center’s first. The infant care center will care for babies from 6 weeks to 2 years, 9 months. At that age, they will move to the preschool.

The fee, $795 a month for infant care, compares favorably with the average in Contra Costa County. Agencies that track the cost of child care report that infant care in the county average $1,100 a month.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary left the school to return to their Arizona motherhouse in 2001, and the convent was vacated. The next year, part of it became a preschool, which enrolls 45 children full-time.

The preschool has provided not just an excellent feeder school for the kindergarten, but it makes things easier at kindergarten testing time. Father Young noted that the children are already familiar with the school, and are not distressed to visit a big, unknown place. “It’s simply, ‘This is my school,’” he said.

That comfortable transition continues to the kindergarten curriculum. The children know the “big school” from activities such as attendance at school Masses and other activities with their eighth-grade “buddies.”

Another family-friendly component is that faculty members can bring their own infants to the infant care center. “Our faculty is very prolific,” said the pastor.

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