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Manchester’s Southside Child Development Center Closed

Operating for 86 years, but with years of recent financial struggles, Southside Child Development Center closed last Friday, June 17th.

In 1929, a group of women noticed young children playing in the streets of South Richmond without adult supervision or schooling. The Depression had forced many mothers and fathers to spend their days searching for work, leaving their children to fend for themselves. Seeing the magnitude of need, the group of women pooled their resources and the Southside Child Development Center (then Southside Day Nursery) opened its doors in 1930.

SCDC announced its closing back in March and posted a Letter to the Community on its website. SCDC was the oldest continuously-operated childcare center in Metro Richmond. A copy of SCDC’s letter, is posted below.

Southside Child Development Center to close in June

After years of financial struggles, Southside Child Development Center will close at the end of the academic school year on June 17th. Unsustainable and inconsistent funding has been an ongoing concern for the Center, putting in jeopardy its mission to provide quality childcare at an affordable price to low-income families. Over the past year, the Board of Directors and executive director Shelia Pleasants have worked on potential solutions to stabilize the Center’s operations, but determined the efforts were insufficient to build the foundation necessary for long-term success.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision to make. Our primary goal is to ensure a graceful shut down of operations and to take care of the families and children we serve,” said Jay Oakey, President of the Center’s Board of Directors. The Board is working closely with Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond and other community partners to ensure a smooth transition for the families. Individual on-site counseling will be available to help parents identify alternative programs that best meet their needs.

Similarly the board is committed to helping its teachers find new employment after the closing by facilitating career workshops and resources to help them develop resume-writing and interview skills. “Our teachers are the heart of our mission and many of them have been with us for 10 years or more. We owe them all of the support we can give them over the next few months,” Ms. Pleasants said.

Operating since 1930, Southside Child Development Center serves approximately 75 children through a full range of childcare and educational programming for children ages one to five, including a Head Start program conducted in partnership with Richmond Public Schools, as well as after-school and summer enrichment programs. By offering high-quality child care at approximately one-third the typical rate, Southside made it possible for low-income parents to participate in the workforce, while knowing their children were well-cared for. The true cost of early childhood education is an estimated $10,000 per year, per child. Over time, a combination of subsidized parent fees, inadequate reimbursement rates and fundraising shortfalls meant that SCDC was unable to bridge this significant funding gap.

“We are saddened to hear of another nonprofit preschool program closing in our region, leaving a void for families unable to afford full tuition,” said Rich Schultz, Executive Director of Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond. “We are pleased to be a resource for Southside Child Development Center in coordinating on-site assistance for families seeking alternative placements for their children. In addition, we will continue to work with local funders and key stakeholders to develop a sustainable solution to the vulnerabilities many nonprofit child care organizations face.”

Southside Child Development Center, which is located in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood, is in the process of selling its property to the adjacent Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which is developing plans to use the property for parish activities and outreach to the wider community.

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