Upon returning to Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in the Fall of 2011, students and faculty have no doubt noticed that the lawn behind Rickenbach Learning Center looks different. On Monday, May 9th, 2011—just two days after the final class of Early Learning Center children, their families, and KU education majors and faculty said a forced goodbye to the early childhood program that helped profoundly train KU’s student teachers—early morning backhoes yanked the last remaining vestiges of this innovative laboratory preschool from public sight.
The loss of the playground was inevitable. The University—though carrying insurance that covers public injuries at more hazardous locations such as KU’s popular Alumni Fountain—was not about to maintain a mild-mannered playground for community and campus use once the program that inspired it was cut.
The ELC’s operating costs were approximately $120,000 dollars per year. This included the salaries of faculty who taught KU education classes, ran the center, instructed the young children, and mentored student workers, student teachers, graduate interns, and more than 250 KU student observers per semester. Multiple art and elementary education classes also used the ELC to execute projects and research with the children. It was an astonishingly low cost — the proverbial drop-in-the-bucket, not even a blip on the budget-issue radar screen — for what this vibrant program accomplished. KU’s $29 million dollar hidden surplus, (reported previously in Raging Chicken Press), along with support from alumni families ready, willing and excited to help, could have easily maintained this important program.
The callousness and forge-ahead mentality exemplified by KU administration as they plow under such meaningful, unique assets of campus such as the ELC laboratory school, the Academic Advising department, the theater and nursing majors, and the recently axed Alumni Affairs office, has folks wondering what the future holds for this ever-homogenizing PA state school.
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Coming in the October edition of Raging Chicken Press: read a personal account of my experiences with KU’s Early Learning Center as a parent, community member, KU alum and activist trying and failing to save this amazing program.
Elizabeth Sica | a graduate of Kutztown University and a resident of Kutztown. Her children attended the ELC in 2003-06 and 2009-11. Sica works as a Preservation Assistant at Lafayette College’s Skillman Library in Easton, PA.