NEWARK -- A beloved but financially struggling child care program might be saved after dozens of impassioned parents vented their anger over its proposed closure at a City Council meeting this week.

Each of the eight public speakers, including some who broke down in tears, chided city leaders at Thursday's meeting for shuttering the program without consulting the public and for giving parents less than a month to find other child care.

"Words cannot express how disappointed I am with the city administration and City Council for showing such a lack of respect to its residents, for not being transparent," said Richard Watters, an Ohlone College board trustee whose son attends the preschool. Watters called for the Newark employees who made the closure decision to be fired. He also accused city officials of being "disconnected from the residents in Newark," saying that giving parents just "20 days to find an alternative (for child care) was a slap in the face."

The standing-room-only audience responded with applause.

Mayor Alan Nagy asked city staff to consider keeping the program open through the summer, giving the community time to find a solution. The crowd cheered the idea.

The city has run the preschool child care program since 1989, said David Zehnder, Newark's recreation and community services director. For weekly fees ranging from $126 to $176, the program has provided child care, preschool instruction, education-based field trips and exercise on an adjacent playground.

This year, Newark subsidized about 25 percent of the program's annual $400,000 operating budget, Zehnder said. The preschool program has been in trouble since 2010, when the city laid off an employee, reducing the staff to four full-time teachers, a part-time instructor and a full-time supervisor, he said.

Enrollment, which topped out at 48 students in peak years, had started to decrease in 2011. This fall, the class started with 27 students and had risen only to 33 pupils by May 31.

That's when the city sent a letter informing parents that the state-licensed program will end June 28.

Kristopher Teague said his daughter has benefitted from the preschool curriculum. He told council members that he and dozens of other parents felt blindsided by the letter, saying that they could have organized a fundraising and marketing campaign if they had known earlier that the program was imperiled.

Teague asked the City Council to postpone the closure, in order to give parents a chance to save the program. He said the preschool could raise tuition, hire unpaid interns and better market the program by improving the city's website and bolstering the preschool's presence on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

"We live in Silicon Valley," he said. "There are parents who are tech employees who want to help."

Vice Mayor Ana Apodaca suggested that staff could work with parents and Kidango, a nonprofit group that provides child care and educational services throughout the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, Nagy cautioned that if the preschool remains unable to pay for itself, then the city's fiscal issues would doom it. "This has always been an excellent program," Nagy said. "We're hopeful to find something that will be longer lasting, but we have to be realistic."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.