NEWARK -- Heeding the pleas of local parents, city officials have spared a fiscally embattled child care program, but with one condition: They will need help from the impassioned residents who have pledged to lead the program into the black.

Officials announced three weeks ago that the city-run state-licensed program -- which has provided child care, preschool instruction, educational field trips and exercise since 1989 -- was on the verge of closing because of a hefty operational deficit.

But after a public outcry, Newark officials on Thursday informed the preschool's six employees that their jobs, and the program, would continue. The announcement came a day after City Manager John Becker and other city officials met with Kristopher Teague, a Newark parent leading the charge to save the program.

"We've made the decision to rescind layoff notices for employees, and we've mailed a letter to parents advising them that we've heard their concerns," Becker said. "I anguished over this decision for a long time, believe me. But when you have the number of parents and the amount of passion demonstrated for the program, it does give you pause."

Tri-City parents, including some who packed the City Council chamber last week to protest the planned closure, celebrated the program's survival. Becky Tigri, a Fremont mother of two children, said parents immediately will start promoting the preschool to the community. Their first order is to increase enrollment, which topped out at 48 in peak years but had only 33 students as of last month.


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"We plan on getting a table at the local summer festivals and passing out fliers, and possibly holding an open house at the school," Tigri said. "It's about helping our children and, really, what's more important than that?"

The preschool program has been in trouble since 2010, when the city laid off one employee, reducing the staff to four full-time teachers, a part-time instructor and a full-time supervisor. Becker said that, in 2013, the city had to subsidize about 25 percent of the preschool's $400,000 operating budget and spent a total of $261,000 to fill its funding gaps in the past three years.

The preschool's weekly fees range from $126 to $176, but those will rise to help pay down the deficit, city officials said. "The exact figures of the increase are still under review," Becker said.

Council members had considered giving the program six months to find financial solutions. However, Becker said this week that there will be no time limit.

"I'm anticipating us making progress in the enrollment figures, but a combination of things need to happen," he said. "The marketing and community engagement efforts will be increased, we'll look at program expenses being reduced, fees will rise, and we'll ask parents to do fundraising and outreach."

Shauna Butler, a Newark resident whose 5-year-old son attended the program, said parents are ready to help in any way possible.

"I was very happy (to hear about the preschool's survival) and a little bit shocked because we were getting so close to the deadline," she said. "I'm very thankful the city is giving us the chance to show that, working together, we can do it."

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