Day care class will remain at school County had sought move from St. Clement's to old library building

March 10, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Despite pressure from the Ruppersberger administration, the day care class at St. Clement's school building in Lansdowne won't be moving to the former county library a half-mile away -- and Jamie Davis is happy about that.

"It's convenient," the mother of a 4-year-old said about keeping youngsters of all ages at St. Clement's together at the school. The day care class is made up of 3- and 4-year-olds.

The decision is the latest twist involving the former Lansdowne Library. The library was closed by budget cuts in 1993, donated to a community group and renovated with $250,000 of federal money in 1994-1995, then taken back by county government last month.

The Ruppersberger administration, unhappy that half of the old library building was unused while the taxpayers continued to pay for utilities, decided last month to end the 99-year, $1-per-year lease to the community. Two Catholic charity groups using half of the building -- who had formerly paid their rent to the community group -- have remained.

To help fill the space, the administration sought to relocate day care children from St. Clement's, where the class was in danger of being displaced to make room for first-graders.

But school leaders have found a solution that won't require moving the day care class. Over Easter break, they will bring in a portable classroom and will move the first-graders there temporarily.

In next year, the Rev. Steven P. Girard, St. Clement's pastor, and Principal Mary Garmer say they hope to raise money from alumni of the 75-year-old school and use volunteer labor to refurbish the first floor of the complex's former convent building next door for the first-graders.

"It's a community sticking together and doing what they feel is best for the safety of their children," Garmer said. Moving some of the children, she said, "would have totally ruined the continuity of our program."

The children's safety and the integrity of the program were the main concerns, said Hugh H. Mills Jr., the volunteer president of the Early Learning Center board.

Parents were worried about having to drop children of different ages off in two places. They were also concerned about traffic at the old library and about being next to Lansdowne High School and a nearby quarry pond.

Anne Lynch, day care center director and the mother of two children in the program, agreed. With one toddler and a 3-year-old, "I would have had to drop my kids at two places," she said.

That would have turned a 20-minute errand into a longer, complicated exercise each morning and evening, she said.

Girard noted that if the children remain at St. Clement's, they can continue using the school's gym and library.

Girard also is president of the Southwest Leadership Team -- the community group that was granted the 99-year-old library building lease by former executive Roger B. Hayden.

Meanwhile, county administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly says he'd like to involve the community in finding new tenants for the empty space at the old library.

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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